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 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 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, 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 X

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 provide the best documentation: the Vietnam Subject Files and the Country Files for Vietnam. They hold the working records of the NSC staff members responsible for analyzing information on Vietnam for Kissinger, who in turn would use their analysis in his communications with President Nixon. The Vietnam Subject Files is a topical collection that deals not only with Vietnam but also with Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Southeast Asia as a whole. Although the Vietnam Subject Files collection is weighed towards military issues, it is not exclusively military. Indeed, these files contain abundant records on the U.S. attempt to manage the peace in Vietnam after January 1973.

Next in importance are several other collections within the NSC Files. The first is the Backchannel Files which contain secret communications, sent without the bureaucracy’s knowledge, between the White House (essentially the President or Kissinger) and ambassadors. Although the collection includes all backchannel messages, a good portion are backchannel messages to and from Ambassador Graham A. Martin in Saigon, and to and from other ambassadors in Southeast Asia. On almost all occasions, these backchannel messages were more important to the policy process than the regular Department of State telegrams. Backchannel messages to and from U.S. negotiators in Paris are also in this collection. 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), [Page XIII] 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 Council 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 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. The transcript of conversations reveals crucial pre-decisional 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 yield a deeper understanding of the players, their actions, and the consequences of action.

The archival sources at the Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, offer the best coverage of the final months of the Vietnam War, including domestic political activities, the evacuation of Phnom Penh and Saigon, and the SS Mayaguez affair. The Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific contain invaluable documents, including memoranda, correspondence, telegrams, and reports. The NSC East Asia and Pacific Affairs Staff Files offer additional documentation, including a chronological file, SS Mayaguez papers, and items generated for WSAG and NSC meetings. Additionally, the library houses Ford administration H-Files, which include briefing books, memoranda, and WSAG meetings minutes produced during the U.S. evacuation of Cambodia and South Vietnam. Also useful are the Agency Files, NSC Vietnam Information Group Files, NSC Congressional Relations Files, NSC Meeting Files, Kissinger and Scowcroft West Wing Files, Brent Scowcroft Daily Work Files, White House Central Files, Legislative Inter-Departmental Working Group Files, and Wolfgang Lehmann Papers. The boxes of documents removed from the Embassy by Ambassador Martin during the evacuation of Saigon are another useful resource. Combined with the Martin backchannel messages, these records offer a detailed account of the Embassy’s experience, important considering the Ambassador’s great personal influence on the handling of the evacuation.

The Henry Kissinger Papers at the Library of Congress are likewise valuable. Material in the papers often replicate documents [Page XIV] found in other collections; it nonetheless holds some unique documents. Foremost in this category are the transcripts of Kissinger telephone conversations based on notes taken by a secretary listening in on the phone at Kissinger’s office at the White House or transcribed from tapes recordings from his home telephone.

The Department of State, Department of Defense, and to a lesser extent the Central Intelligence Agency, strong bureaucratic players in past Vietnam volumes, played 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 most valuable for tracking events in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and at the Paris Talks. The Central Files offer Vietnam-related documents through mid-1973, after which the Department captured memoranda, telegrams, and other records electronically. Beginning in September 1973 the Department of States again played an active role in the policymaking process. That month, Kissinger became Secretary of State; his NSC staffers filled many key positions at the Department. Useful resources include Record Group 59 at the National Archives. Also interesting are the U.S. Foreign Service post records. Although they offer little on high policy, the post files are filled with reports and communications on local conditions and activities. And, in the absence of U.S. initiative after mid-1973, the story of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia often centers on U.S. Embassy. The post files, however, provide inconsistent coverage of U.S. activities abroad because many records did not survive the fall of Saigon. The best preserved, the Phnom Penh Embassy Files, Record Group 84, offer detailed coverage of U.S. activities in Cambodia. Also, while they offer thin coverage of the years between 1969 and 1974, the Lot Files of the Bureau of East Asian Affairs Files, Record Group 59, can be useful for researchers interested in the ending of the Vietnam War.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) records are essential for documenting the role of intelligence in the war in Southeast Asia. Even so, the most important finished intelligence can be found in the Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files. The CIA prepared a daily briefing for the President on Vietnam that is in the National Security Council Files, President’s Daily Briefings. Additionally, useful collections under CIA’s physical custody are the National Intelligence Center (NIC) Files, which contain many intelligence estimates and memoranda.

Department of Defense related records that are worthy of mention as sources, are the records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in Record Group 218 at the National Archives, specifically those of Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, 1970–1974 and General George S. Brown, 1974–1978. The most useful sections of these records are the Chairman’s [Page XV] correspondence to and from the Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, correspondence to and from the Commander in Chief, Pacific Command, and additional miscellaneous Vietnam related documents in various country folders.

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, Records of the Department of State
      • Central Files
      • POL 27 LAOS
      • POL 27–14 VIET
    • Record Group 84, Foreign Service Post Files
      • Phnom Penh Embassy Lot Files
    • Record Group 218, Records of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
      • Records of Thomas H. Moorer
      • Records of George S. Brown
    • Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan
      • U.S. National Security Council
        • Institutional Records, 1974–77
          • Meeting Minutes, Washington Special Actions Group
          • National Security Study Memoranda
          • Washington Special Actions Group Meeting, Evacuation
          • Washington Special Actions Group Meeting, Indochina
      • National Security Adviser Files
        • Backchannel Messages, 1974–1977
        • NSC Vietnam Information Group: Intelligence and Other Reports, 1967–75
        • Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific, 1974–77
        • NSC East Asia and Pacific Affairs Staff Files, 1973–76
        • Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–77
        • Presidential Subject File, 1974–77
        • Presidential Transition File, 1974
        • NSC Meeting Minutes, 1974–77
        • Scowcroft Daily Work Files, 1974–77
        • Presidential Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, 1974–77
        • Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, 1974–77
        • Presidential Agency Files, 1974–77
        • NSC Press and Congressional Liaison Staff Files, 1972–75
        • NSC Planning and Coordination Staff Files, 1972–75
        • Legislative Interdepartmental Group Files, 1971–74
        • NSC Information Liaison with Commissions and Committees, 1974–77
        • Saigon Embassy Files Kept by Ambassador Graham Martin, 1963–75
      • President’s Daily Diary, 1974–77
      • President’s Handwriting File, 1974–77
      • President’s Speeches and Statements
      • U.S. National Security Agency
        • Radio Messages from the Helicopter Evacuation of U.S. Embassy, Saigon, 29–30 April 1975
      • White House Central Files
        • Subject Files, Country
      • Philip W. Buchen Files
      • Richard B. Cheney Files
      • James E. Connor Files
      • Martin Hoffman Papers and Scrapbooks
      • William Kendall Files
      • Wolfgang J. Lehmann Papers
      • John O. Marsh Files
      • Patrick O’Donnell and Joseph Jenckes Files
    • Nixon Presidential Materials Project, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland (Now at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California)
      • National Security Council, Institutional Files (H-Files)
        • Meeting Files, Washington Special Actions Group Meetings, Minutes of Meetings, Washington Special Actions Group Meetings (Originals)
        • Meeting Files, Washington Special Actions Group Meetings, Minutes of Meetings, Southeast Asia
        • Meeting Files, Washington Special Actions Group Meetings, Minutes of Meetings, Vietnam
        • Minutes of Meetings (1969–1974), Washington Special Action Group, Vietnam Ad Hoc Group
        • Policy Papers (1969–1974), National Security Decision Memorandums
        • Study Memorandums (1969–1974), National Security Study Memorandums
        • Under Secretaries Committee Memorandum Files (1969–1974)
      • National Security Council Files
        • Henry A. Kissinger Office Files
          • Country Files, Vietnam
          • Subject Files, Vietnam
        • Backchannel Messages
        • Presidential Correspondence (1969–1974)
          • Name Files
        • Presidential/HAK Memcons
        • Agency and Congressional Files
        • VIP Visits
        • Alexander M. Haig Special File
        • Unfiled Material
        • White House Central Files
    • Central Intelligence Agency
      • Executive Registry Subject Files
        • Job 80–B01086A, Job 80–M01048A, and Job 80–M01066A
      • National Intelligence Council Files
        • Job 79–R01012A
        • Job 79–R01142A
        • Job 80–R01720R
    • Library of Congress, Washington, DC
      • Papers of Henry A. Kissinger
    • National Security Council
      • Nixon Administration Intelligence Files
        • Subject Files, Vietnam, January–October 1973
      • Ford Administration Intelligence Files
        • Subject Files, Vietnam, August–June 1975
    • Washington National Records Center, Suitland, Maryland
      • FRC 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense
        • 78–0001
          • Secret Decimal Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1973
        • 78–0002
          • Top Secret Decimal Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1973
        • 78–0011
          • Secret Decimal Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1974
        • 78–0010
          • Top Decimal Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1974
        • 78–0058
          • Secret Decimal Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1975
        • 78–0059
          • Top Secret Decimal Files of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1975
        • 76–0078
          • Top Secret Files of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, 1972–1975
        • 76–0079
          • Secret Files of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, 1972–1975
        • 83–0150
          • Secret Files of the Office for POW/MIA Affairs, 1967–1982

Published Sources

  • Ford, Gerald R. A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.
  • Kissinger, Henry. Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America’s Involvement in and Extraction from the Vietnam War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
  • __________. White House Years. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.
  • Luu Van Loi and Nguyen Anh Vu. Le Duc Tho-Kissinger Negotiations in Paris. Hanoi: The Gioi Publishers, 1995.
  • National Intelligence Council. Estimative Products on Vietnam (1948–1975). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2005.
  • Nixon, Richard M. RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978.
  • Pike, Douglas, ed. The Bunker Papers: Reports to the President from Vietnam, 1967–1973. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, 1990.
  • United States. Department of State. Bulletin. Washington, DC, 1973–1975.
  • United States. National Archives and Records Administration. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard M. Nixon, 1969–1974. 6 vols. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1969–1975.
  • __________. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerald R. Ford, 1974–1977. 6 vols. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1975–1977.