The Office of the Historian, U. S. Department of State, released the following notice on April 17, 2006, as part of its series of policy documents published continuously since 1861. For additional details, see the sources at the end of this notice. – Ed.
The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, volume VI, Vietnam, January 1969-July 1970, the first of five volumes to cover the end of the Vietnam War. The Presidential election of November 1968 had demonstrated just how divisive Vietnam had become in American society and politics. Vietnam was the new President’s first priority. The volume demonstrates that in the early months of 1969 there was no specific plan to end the war. Rather, the Nixon administration searched for ways to demonstrate to the leaders in Hanoi that there was a new “firm hand at the helm” prepared to both talk and fight. Nixon and his advisers hoped to convince Hanoi that it was dealing with an adversary that would negotiate only from a position of strength. This volume documents the search for the formula to convince Hanoi: the secret bombing of Cambodia, Vietnamization and U.S. troops withdrawals, integration of the secret war in Laos with the conflict in Vietnam, covert operations against North Vietnam, and most importantly the U.S. and South Vietnamese attack on the enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia.
The volume also covers the negotiations to end the war, with the initial negotiations focusing on the private talks in Paris between the heads of the delegations at formal, but sterile, peace talks. The Nixon administration also sought to engage the Soviet Union to moderate North Vietnamese behavior, but without much success. The secret negotiations between Henry Kissinger; Xuan Thuy, the head of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s delegation in Paris; and Politburo member Le Duc Tho are all covered in detail.In the autumn of 1969, Kissinger sent the President a bleak assessment of the present course in Vietnam. He suggested that the best military strategy was a sharp escalation designed to achieve an acceptable negotiated settlement. Kissinger already had his NSC staff brainstorming about such possibilities under the code name Duck Hook. The President instructed the military to plan for sharp, high intensity air and naval operations against the North to achieve maximum psychological and military impact. Nixon and Kissinger were keen to take some positive action to coincide with a major speech Nixon planned on Vietnam, but they were reduced to using a military alert exercise to try to send a signal to Hanoi.
The last part of the volume focuses on Cambodia, where in March 1970 General Lon Nol overthrew Norodom Sihanouk. The documentation suggests that U.S. officials did not have much foreknowledge of the coup, but nevertheless the Nixon administration was quick to support the new regime. The Nixon administration moved from shoring up Lon Nol to deciding that his regime was under such pressure from the North Vietnamese that a joint U.S.-South Vietnamese invasion of the Cambodian sanctuaries was required. The Cambodian operation caused a firestorm of protest in the United States and abroad. Such a reaction made Nixon adamant to prove that the operation had been a success and worth all the agony.
The volume ends in July 1970, with the President and his advisers reviewing the situation after U.S. troops left Cambodia. While this volume does not have any Nixon presidential tape recordings-they did not begin until February 1971-it does rely on transcripts of Kissinger telephone conversations and a broad range of documents from the Nixon Presidential Materials, the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Haldeman Diaries, and the Kissinger and Lodge papers.
The volume, the summary, and this press release are available at the Office of the Historian website at www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/vi . Copies of this volume can also be purchased from the U.S. Government Printing Office at bookstore.gpo.gov (GPO stock number 044-000-02602-3; ISBN 0-16-075260-4). For further information contact Edward Keefer, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1131; fax (202) 663-1289; e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.