Sources for the Foreign Relations Series

The 1991 Foreign Relations statute requires that the published record in the Foreign Relations series include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation on major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant U.S. diplomatic activity. It further requires that agencies, departments, and other entities of the U.S. Government engaged in foreign policy formulation, execution, or support cooperate with the Department of State Historian by providing full and complete access to records pertinent to foreign policy decisions and actions and by providing copies of selected records. Most of the sources consulted in the preparation of this volume have been declassified and are available for review at the National Archives and Records Administration.

The editors of the Foreign Relations series have complete access to all the retired records and papers of the Department of State: the central files of the Department; the special decentralized files (“lot files”) of the Department at the bureau, office, and division levels; the files of the Department’s Executive Secretariat, which contain the records of international conferences and high-level official visits, correspondence with foreign leaders by the President and Secretary of State, and memoranda of conversations between the President and Secretary of State and foreign officials; and the files of overseas diplomatic posts. All the Department’s indexed central files through July 1973 have been permanently transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland (Archives II). Many of the Department’s decentralized office files covering the 1969–1976 period, which the National Archives deems worthy of permanent retention, have also been transferred or are in the process of being transferred from the Department’s custody to Archives II.

The editors of the Foreign Relations series also have full access to the papers of President Nixon and other White House foreign policy records, including tape recordings of conversations with key U.S. and foreign officials. Presidential papers maintained and preserved at the Presidential libraries and the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at Archives II include some of the most significant foreign affairs-related documentation from the Department of State and other Federal agencies including the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dr. Henry Kissinger has approved access to his papers at the Library of Congress. The papers are a key source for the NixonFord subseries of Foreign Relations.

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Research for this volume was completed through special access to restricted documents at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, the Library of Congress, and other agencies. While all the material printed in this volume has been declassified, some of it is extracted from still classified documents. The Nixon Presidential Materials staff is processing and declassifying many of the documents used in this volume, but they may not be available in their entirety at the time of publication. In the future, Nixon’s papers will be transferred to their permanent home at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California.

Sources for Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume VIII

In preparing this volume, the editor made extensive use of Presidential papers and other White House records at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, which proved to be the single most useful collection bearing on the Nixon administration’s management of the Vietnam War and its search for a negotiated peace in Southeast Asia. The collection of most value within the Nixon materials is the National Security Council (NSC) Files. Two files within the NSC Files provided the richest source of documentation: the Vietnam Subject Files and the Country Files for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Also of importance in the NSC Files are the Paris/Talks Meeting Files, which relate to the formal Paris Peace Negotiations both public and private. The records of the Kissinger-Xuan Thuy and Le Duc Tho secret negotiations are in the NSC Files, For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David. A final negotiations file of note is one in the NSC Files, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, that contains records of private channel talks between Henry Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. Their private discussions often related to Vietnam.

Of next importance are a group of files in the NSC Files. The first are the Backchannel Files. President Nixon and Kissinger communicated secretly with the Ambassador to Vietnam, Ellsworth Bunker, through backchannel messages that did not involve the rest of the bureaucracy, especially the State Department bureaucracy. Also in the NSC Files are the Kissinger Office Files, the Subject Files, the Agency Files, the Haig Special and Chronological Files, Presidential/HAK MemCons, the President’s Daily Briefing Files, and the Unfiled Materials.

Of equal importance in the NSC Files of the Nixon Presidential Materials are the National Security Council Institutional Files (H-Files), which are part of the NSC Files but are not to be confused with the NSC Institutional Matters File. The H-Files contain the minutes of NSC meetings, and such NSC subgroups as the Review Group/Senior Review Group and Washington Special Actions Group. For each set of meeting minutes there are corresponding folders that contain the papers that Kissinger, who chaired all of these groups, used in preparation [Page XV] for the meetings. Also of value in the H-Files are the National Security Study Memorandum and National Security Decision Memorandum files, containing the request for studies, the studies themselves, and the decision memoranda resulting from the process.

Presidential tape recordings of Nixon’s telephone conversations and of his meetings with senior advisers—also part of the Presidential Materials collection—add greatly to our ability to document the Vietnam policy process and its implementation. In the transcript of conversations we see crucial predecisional discussions between and among principals to the policy process, and on occasion even capture the moment of decision itself. Because Vietnam represented so complicated and difficult a problem, or problems, for the President and his inner circle, the tape transcripts provide additional richness in the sources. These frank conversations add much to our understanding of the players, their actions, and the consequences of action.

The most useful collections in the White House Special Files are the President’s Personal Files. The Nixon Presidential Diary in the White House Central Files is an essential tool for researchers.

After the records in the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, the Papers of Henry Kissinger at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress are second in importance. While the Kissinger Papers often replicate documentation found in other collections, especially the NSC File of the Nixon Presidential Materials, they proved valuable and contain important documents unique to that collection, especially in the Geopolitical File, the file on Memoranda to the President, and the Presidential File. The Papers also contain the records of Kissinger’s telephone conversations, copies of which have been given by Kissinger to the National Archives. These telephone transcripts are a key source that are open at the National Archives and are part of the Nixon Presidential Materials.

The Department of State, the Department of Defense, and to a lesser extent the Central Intelligence Agency, strong bureaucratic players in past Foreign Relations Vietnam volumes, play a much reduced role under President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who concentrated policy in their own hands. The files of the Department of State, especially the Central Files and some Lot Files, are valuable for describing what was happening in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, or at the Paris talks. There are almost no Department of State files that trace policy decisions, since the Secretary of State and his Department were excluded from key policy decision making on Vietnam. Still, some of the Central Files most useful for developments in the field are POL 27 VIET, POL 27 VIET S, and POL 27 LAOS.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s records are valuable for intelligence on Vietnam and the war in Southeast Asia, but the most important intelligence records can be found in the Nixon Presidential [Page XVI] Materials, NSC Files. Collections under CIA custody of note are the National Intelligence Council (NIC) Files, the Records of George Carver, and the DCI Helms and DCI Executive Registry Files. Carver’s files are especially valuable since he was, from 1966 to 1973, the CIA Director’s Special Assistant for Vietnam Affairs and involved in all Agency activities—tactical, operational, and strategic—related to the war there.

The Department of Defense and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird were key players in the implementation of Vietnam policy, especially regarding Vietnamization and the Easter Offensive. Because Laird had a semi-independent base in Congress, where he was a member of the House of Representatives for years before coming to the Department of Defense, his actions often supported limits on the President’s Vietnam policy rather than enabling it. While Laird’s key memoranda are almost always found in the Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, it is sometimes illuminating to trace the evolution of a Defense position through documents originating within the Department of Defense.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and its Chairman, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, played an important role in executing U.S. military policy in Vietnam during 1972. Therefore, Moorer’s office records, particularly message traffic to and from the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and to and from the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command, as well as Vietnam papers generated within the JCS, are particularly useful to the researcher. Even more valuable for understanding how he assisted in the implementation of White House policy in the run-up to, during, and in the wake of the Easter Offensive are his diary entries and attached telephone conversation transcripts. Regarding the latter, his conversations with senior military officers and senior civilians at the Department of Defense, including Secretary of Defense Laird, and with senior White House Officials, including President Nixon, Henry A. Kissinger, and Alexander M. Haig, are always instructive.

H.R. Haldeman’s diary is on occasion extraordinarily useful because his entries set the scene for White House decision making, provide insight into the decision-making process and the decisions made, characterize the President’s state of mind vis-à-vis the process, and describe the actions and interactions of the major White House players on Vietnam policy issues.

The following list identifies the particular files and collections used in the preparation of this volume. In addition to the paper files cited below, a growing number of documents are available on the Internet. The Office of the Historian maintains a list of these Internet resources on its website and encourages readers to consult that site on a regular basis.

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Unpublished Sources

  • Department of State
    • Central Files. See National Archives and Records Administration below.
    • INR/IL Historical Files
      • Historical intelligence files maintained by the Office of Intelligence Liaison in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and still under Department of State custody.
  • National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
    • Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State
      • Central Files
        • POL 27 VIET S
        • POL 27–2 VIET S
        • POL 27–10 VIET
        • POL 27–14 VIET
        • POL 27 LAOS
    • Record Group 218, Records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
      • Records of Thomas H. Moorer
        • Miscellaneous Material on Vietnam
        • Correspondence to and from the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
        • Correspondence to and from the Commander in Chief, Pacific
        • Diary, July 2, 1970–July 1, 1974
  • Nixon Presidential Materials Project, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
    • National Security Council Files
      • Vietnam Subject Files
      • Vietnam Country Files
      • Paris Talks/Meetings
      • Backchannel
      • President’s Trips
        • Dobrynin-Kissinger, 1972
      • Country Files, Far East
        • Cambodia
        • Indochina
        • Laos
      • For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam
      • Alexander M. Haig Chronological File
      • Alexander M. Haig Special File
      • Jon Howe, Vietnam Chronology Files
      • Jon Howe, Vietnam Subject Files
      • Henry A. Kissinger Office Files
        • Country Files, Far East, Vietnam, Vietnam Negotiations, General
      • Unfiled Material
    • National Security Council, Institutional Files (H-Files)
      • Meeting Files, National Security Council Meetings, 5/8/72
      • Meeting Files, Senior Review Group Meetings, Vietnam Assessment, 1/24/72
      • Meeting Files, Washington Special Actions Group Meetings, Vietnam Minutes of Meetings, Washington Special Actions Group Minutes (Originals)
      • Policy Papers (1969–1974), National Security Decision Memoranda
    • National Security Council, Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts Chronological File
    • White House Special File, President’s Personal Files, May 8, 1972
    • White House Tapes
  • Central Intelligence Agency
    • Files of the Deputy Director for Intelligence
      • Jobs 79–T00862A, 80–B01673R, and 80–T0179R
    • Executive Registry Files
      • Job 80–R01284A
    • National Intelligence Council Files
      • Job 80–R01720R
  • Library of Congress, Washington, DC
    • Papers of Henry A. Kissinger
      • Chronological File
      • Chronological File, Vietnam
      • Top Secret
        • Chronological File
        • Geopolitical File, Vietnam
        • National Security Council, Washington Special Actions Group
        • National Security Council, Meetings
  • National Security Council
    • Subject Files, Vietnam, 17 Jan 72–2 Oct 73
  • Washington National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland
    • FRC 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense
      • 74–0142
        • Top Secret files from the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird, 1969–1972
      • 75–0155
        • Top Secret subject decimal files from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
      • 77–0094/95
        • Secret and Top Secret subject decimal files from the Official Records of the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, 1972
  • United States Army Center of Military History, Washington, DC
    • Creighton W. Abrams Papers
[Page XIX]

Published Sources

Ahern, Thomas L. CIA and the Generals: Covert Support to Military Government in South Vietnam. Center for the Study of Intelligence, CIA History Staff, Central Intelligence Agency, 1999. Sanitized version released March 2009.

Andrade, Dale. America’s Last Vietnam Battle: Halting Hanoi’s 1972 Easter Offensive. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

Asselin, Pierre. A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi, and the Making of Paris Agreement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Bui Diem, and David Chanoff. In the Jaws of History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

Conboy, Ken, and James Morrison. Shadow War: The CIA’s Secret War in Laos. Boulder, Colo.: Paladin, 1995.

Cosmas, Graham A. MACV: The Joint Command in the Years of Withdrawal, 1968–1973. In The United States Army in Vietnam series. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 2007.

Doan Huyen. “Defeating the Americans: Fighting and Talking.” In The Diplomatic Front during the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam. Edited by Vu Son Thuy. Translated by Merle Pribbenow. Hanoi: National Political Publishing House, 2004.

Ha Dang, editor. Collected Party Documents. Volume 33, 1972. Translated by Merle Pribbenow. Hanoi: National Political Publishing House, 2004.

Haig, Alexander M. Inner Circles: How America Changed the World: A Memoir. New York: Warner, 1992.

Haldeman, H.R. The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House. Santa Monica, Calif.: Sony Imagesoft, 1994. Multimedia Edition (CD-ROM).

Hammond, William M. Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1968–1973. In The United States Army in Vietnam series. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1996.

Hunt, Richard A. Pacification: The American Struggle for Vietnam’s Hearts and Minds. Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1995.

Kimball, Jeffrey. Nixon’s Vietnam War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

_____. The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003.

Kissinger, Henry A. Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America’s Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

_____. “The Vietnam Negotiations.” Foreign Relations 47 (1969): 211–234.

_____. White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.

Luu Van Loi and Nguyen Anh Vu. Le Duc ThoKissinger Negotiations in Paris. Hanoi: The Gioi Publishers, 1995.

Nalty, Bernard C. Air War over South Vietnam, 1968–1975. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, 2000.

_____. The War Against Trucks: Aerial Interdiction in Southern Laos, 1968–1972. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, 2005.

Nixon, Richard M. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1978.

Ngo Quang Truong. The Easter Offensive of 1972. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1980.

Nguyen Dinh Bin, editor. Vietnamese Diplomacy, 1945–2000. Translated by Merle Pribbenow. Hanoi: National Political Publishing House, 2002.

Nguyen Tien Hung and Jerrold L. Schecter. The Palace File. New York: Harper and Row, 1986.

Randolph, Stephen P. Powerful and Brutal Weapons: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Easter Offensive. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Sorley, Lewis. A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

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Thompson, Wayne. To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966–1973. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.

Tran Van Don. Our Endless War. San Rafael, Calif.: Presidio, 1978.

United States. National Archives and Records Administration. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1972. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1974.

Webb, Willard J., and Walter S. Poole. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1971–1973. In the History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff series. Washington, DC: Office of Joint History, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, 2007.