Skip to Main Content

Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): U.S. Policy in the Vietnam War, Part II: 1969-1975

About this Collection

U.S. Policy in the Vietnam War, Part II is the most important compilation of documents available on the final phase of the Vietnam War. Incorporating the very latest U.S. government releases, which significantly enrich the historical record, these documents, virtually all previously classified, cover all the major issues from the period, including diplomatic, military, and intelligence aspects of the Vietnam war during the period of the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Also included is material that bridges topics in Part I, such as a subset on pacification issues, the most comprehensive assemblage to date of the Pentagon Papers, and a detailed retrospective by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research on the earlier period. Topics covered in detail in this collection include the Paris Peace negotiations, the Vietnamization program, the war in Cambodia, the Christmas Bombing of 1972, and the fall of South Vietnam.

Research Value of the Collection

This collection covers a conflict that engaged America for two decades and progressed from simple foreign aid and military assistance to active combat, to negotiations, to a renewed period of military assistance and ultimate defeat for U.S. policy. The period includes a multiplicity of diplomatic maneuvers, lengthy deliberations in the White House and elsewhere in Washington, and combat action in the theater of war. Details of individual crises and battles, and descriptions of the U.S. government's responses give researchers a vivid picture of how the Vietnam War developed, how it was perceived in other capitals, and how costly the war became. Because many of the documents were written by U.S. officials observing and reacting to events as they unfolded, they open a fascinating window into the thought patterns of the men and women who sat on the front lines in this conflict and whose actions had an immediate impact on many levels. Among these materials are regular, sometimes hourly, reports sent to the president that impart some of the urgency of events at the top levels of the U.S. government, as well as detailed narratives from U.S. embassy and military officials reporting from the scene.

Beyond the immediacy of these descriptive documents, the materials in this collection also give a uniquely detailed portrait of the planning and decision-making that, at each stage of the Vietnam involvement, kept the United States mired in the conflict. The initial decision to construct a negotiating strategy that officials knew would not be acceptable to Hanoi, the military and pacification operations designed to reduce casualties and enable the war effort to be maintained, the decision to expand the war into Cambodia, the choices involved in pressuring Hanoi, the massive entrance into the public domain of information on inside deliberations on the conduct of the war as a result of the leak of the Pentagon Papers, and the attempts to pursue the negotiations are all documented in impressive detail. More extensive discussion of these features of the collection is contained in the subset-by-subset treatment given in the introduction.