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 government 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 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. Presidential papers maintained and preserved at the Presidential libraries 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 Nixon-Ford 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 (at Archives II), 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. Nixon’s papers were transferred to their permanent home at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, after research for this volume was completed. The Nixon Library 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.

Sources for Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume IX

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. Within that collection resides the richest source of documentation for this volume: a file called For the President’s Files (Winston Lord)—China Trip/Vietnam, Sensitive Camp David. It contains verbatim transcripts of the talks in Paris between the chief negotiator for the United States, Henry A. Kissinger, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Le Duc Tho; Kissinger’s summary memoranda to President Nixon of the negotiations; and other supporting documents.

Additionally in the NSC Files, and critical to understanding the policy formation and implementation processes, are documents, including transcripts of telephone conversations, generated by the Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs, Alexander M. Haig, or received by his office. In this period, as relations between Nixon and Kissinger became strained, Haig’s role became more significant. Thus this material, which can be found in two collections in the NSC Files (the Alexander M. Haig Chronological File and the Alexander M. Haig Special File), is of substantial historical importance. The transcripts of the telephone conversations in the former, almost always on policy topics, are worth highlighting since scholars have not used them much.

There are other important NSC Files. In the Backchannel Messages To and From Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker in Saigon files, President Nixon and Kissinger communicated with Bunker through a channel that excluded the Department of State. Other NSC Files of importance are: the Vietnam Subject Files; Vietnam Country Files; the Paris/Talks Meetings Files; Subject Files, HAK/Presidential Memos Files; and the Jon Howe Files.

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Within the National Security Council Files, complete with its own box numbering (1 to 149), the Henry A. Kissinger Office Files form a separate sub-file. Two collections in the Office Files especially useful to this volume are the HAK Trip Files, which contain documents relevant to Kissinger’s five trips to Paris and one to Saigon in this period, and Country Files, Far East, Vietnam Negotiations, which contain American correspondence with the North Vietnamese, Kissinger’s correspondence with William Sullivan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, William Porter, Chief of the U.S. Delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, and additional material pertinent to the negotiations.

Also of importance in the NSC Files of the Nixon Presidential Materials are the National Security Council Institutional Files (H-Files), which are not to be confused with the NSC Institutional Matters Files. For this volume, the H-Files contain the minutes of the Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG). For each set of meeting minutes there are corresponding folders that contain the papers that Kissinger, who chaired WSAG meetings, used in preparations 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, greatly enhance documentation of the Vietnam policy process and its implementation. The transcripts of conversations reveal crucial pre-decisional discussions between and among principals and on occasion even capture the moment of decision. These frank conversations yield a deeper understanding of the players, their actions, the consequences of action, and in general provide an additional richness in the sources.

The Nixon Presidential Diary is an essential tool for researchers and is in the White House Central Files, Staff Members and Office Files. Without the Diary, it would be difficult to confirm times of meetings, telephone conversations, and attendees at and participants in meetings.

After the records in the Nixon Presidential Materials Project, the papers of Henry A. 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, on occasion they include important documents unique to that collection, especially in the Geopolitical File. The papers also contain the transcripts of Kissinger’s telephone conversations, copies of which have been given by Kissinger to the National Archives. These telephone transcripts are a key source for [Page XVIII] policy research on Vietnam in the National Archives and are part of the Nixon Presidential Materials.

The Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency, strong bureaucratic players in Foreign Relations Vietnam volumes focused on earlier administrations, play reduced roles under President Nixon, who concentrated policy in his own hands and Kissinger’s. Because Nixon excluded the Secretary of State from the policy process, the files of the Department of State are at best only modestly valuable because they report what was happening in Indochina. The Department of Defense and Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird performed crucial roles in the implementation of Vietnam policy, especially regarding Vietnamization. Laird had a semi-independent base in Congress, where he had been a member of the House or Representatives for years before coming to the Department of Defense, and his actions often supported limits on the President’s Vietnam policy rather than enabling it. Still, Laird and his department were for the most part effectively excluded from policy formation. 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 with that Department. The Central Intelligence Agency’s records are useful in a limited way because they do contain intelligence on Vietnam and the war in Southeast Asia. Collections of note under CIA control are the National Intelligence Council Files, the Records of George Carver, and the DCI Helms and DCI Executive Registry Files. Carver’s files are a treasure trove 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.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, exercised considerable sway over the implementation of Nixon’s military policy in Vietnam, more so than did his nominal superior, Secretary Laird. Therefore, Moorer’s office records, particularly message traffic to and from the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command, the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and other military commanders, as well as memoranda to and from Secretary Laird and senior officials at the Pentagon, are useful to the researcher. Even more helpful for understanding Moorer’s role are his diary entries and telephone conversation transcripts attached to the entries. The transcripts of his conversations with senior military officers and civilians at the Department of Defense, and with senior White House officials, relating to Vietnam are always instructive.

Memoir literature of principals in a documentary history—in this case of Richard M. Nixon, Henry A. Kissinger, and Alexander M. [Page XIX] Haig—better serve the needs of such history than do more traditional histories. After all, those traditional works—monographs, biographies, articles, and general histories—spring from documents and not the other way around. Memoir literature tells the reader how the author/actor perceived reality, or how he or she wanted to be seen as perceiving reality, which, for contextualizing documentary histories, is critical. A diary, such as the one penned by Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, can do the same, and perhaps, because of its contemporary nature, can do it better. 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 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 actors on Vietnam policy issues. The Palace File, listed in the bibliography below, is based largely on extensive interviews with South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu and therefore in sensibility at least occasionally resembles a hybrid memoir.

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.

Unpublished Sources

  • Department of State
    • Central Files. see National Archives and Records Administration below.
  • National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
    • Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State
      • Central Files
        • POL 27 VIET S 12/23/1972
    • Record Group 218, Records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
      • Records of Thomas H. Moorer
        • Miscellaneous Material on Vietnam, including memoranda to and from Secretary of Defense
        • Correspondence to and from Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command
        • Diary, July 2, 1970–July 1, 1974
  • Nixon Presidential Materials Project, National Archives and Record Administration, College Park, Maryland (now at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California)
    • National Security Council Files
      • Vietnam Subject Files
      • Vietnam Country Files
      • Paris Talks/Meetings
      • Subject Files
      • Backchannel Messages
      • Country Files, Far East:
        • Laos
      • For the President’s Files—Vietnam Negotiations
      • Alexander M. Haig Chronological File
      • Alexander M. Haig Special File
      • Institutional Files (H-Files)
      • Jon Howe, Vietnam Subject Files
      • Jon Howe, Trip Files
      • Henry A. Kissinger Office Files
      • Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts
        • Chronological File
      • White House Tapes
  • Central Intelligence Agency
    • Files of the Deputy Director for Intelligence
      • Jobs 80–B01630R, 80–R01720R
    • Executive Registry
      • Files Job 80–B01086A
  • Library of Congress, Washington, DC
    • Papers of Henry A. Kissinger
      • Top Secret
        • Geopolitical File, Vietnam
        • National Security Council, Washington Special Actions Group
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
    • Television News Archive
  • Washington National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland
    • FRC 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense
      • 75–0125
        • Secret subject decimal files from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
      • 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
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Published Sources

  • Asselin, Pierre. A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi, and the Makings of the Paris Agreement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Dillard, Walter Scott. Sixty Days to Peace: Implementing the Paris Peace Accords, Vietnam, 1973. Washington: National Defense University Press, 1982.
  • Haig, Alexander M. Inner Circles: How America Changed the World: A Memoir. New York: Warner, 1992.
  • Haldeman, H.R., “Bob.” The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House. Santa Monica, Calif.: Sony Imagesoft, 1994. Multimedia Edition.
  • Kissinger, Henry A. White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.
  • Luu Van Loi and Nguyen Anh Vu. Le Duc Tho-Kissinger Negotiations in Paris. Hanoi: Gioi Publishers, 1995.
  • Nixon, Richard M. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978.
  • Nguyen Tien Hung and Jerrold L. Schecter. The Palace File. New York: Harper and Row, 1978.
  • Thompson, Wayne. To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966–1973. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.
  • United States. National Archives and Records Administration. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, 1969, 1972, 1973. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1971, 1974, 1975.
  • Szulc, Tad. The Illusion of Peace: Foreign Policy in the Nixon Years. New York: Viking, 1978.
  • Webb, Willard J., and Walter S. Poole. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the War in Vietnam, 1971–1973. Washington: Office of Joint History, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2007.