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Military Records

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The National Archives entered into an agreement on August 9, 2019 with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to digitize U.S. Navy and Coast Guard deck logs from vessels with Vietnam-era service.

 

“Our goal is to support the processing of claims by the VA and enable sailors to relive their tours online through the actual deck logs, to pinpoint where they served," said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “As a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam on the hospital ship USS Sanctuary, I look forward to seeing my ship's deck logs and revisiting this important history."

 

U.S. Naval and Coast Guard deck logs, in the custody of the National Archives, contain critical information required to validate the claims for those who served in Vietnam and establish service-connection for disability benefits. Deck logs are part of the National Archives’ archival holdings and therefore are not normally permitted to leave their storage locations.

 

A deck log is a daily report of ship activity, typically completed by junior officers and signed by the ship’s commanding officer. The deck log contains information regarding movements (heading and speed), and the ship’s location, and in some cases have information on combat operations, accidents, injuries, and other personnel events. This partnership includes the digitization of deck logs from 1956-78.

 

Beginning on August 22, 2019, the VA will begin scanning more than 20 million images from the U.S. Naval and Coast Guard deck logs. While the scanning project is underway this group of records will be closed to researchers at National Archives facilities, but access will be restored as soon as possible after the paper records are returned. The National Archives will also begin the process of making the digitized records available on archives.gov, after images are transferred to NARA by the VA, and the images are screened for privacy concerns. Tentatively, the scanning/digitization part of the project is scheduled to be completed by February 2020.

 

This project will support the processing of veterans’ claims, including those related to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, and eventually facilitate increased access to these records by researchers in a digital format without having to travel to a National Archives facility. Through this partnership, National Archives will improve access to and discovery of these historically significant records.

A group of University of Virginia graduate students created a project using data from U.S. Navy deck logs—held at the National Archives at College Park and available via the online catalog—to pinpoint locations of various ships during the Southeast Asia conflict. The deck logs formed a chronological account of notable events occurring in and around a ship, reminded the officers of the deck of their duties, and checked on the activities of the officers. They also served as evidence in legal proceedings in naval, admiralty, or civil courts when necessary.

More important, the deck logs contained the coordinates of where the ships traveled during their time in service, information that can help prove a veteran’s exact location during the war.

The students used the information collected from the log books to create a database showing which ships were in the Agent Orange exposure zone, which was defined by legislation as within 12 nautical miles of a boundary off the coast of Vietnam. 

https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/students-create-tool-to-help-navy-vietnam-vets

Selective Service System Classification & Registration Records for 1940 – 1975

 

General Information and Descriptions

 


 

All Selective Service System Classification and Registration Records: 1940 – 1975 have been consolidated from state holdings to the National Archives.  These dates cover men born 4/28/1877 – 3/29/1957. Men born between 3/29/1957 – 12/31/1959 were exempt from registering.  It is important to note that not all men who registered for the draft served in the military.

 

Registration Cards (SSS Form 101) were created to account for all men required to register for the draft.  Information found in these cards generally includes name, address, employer/educational institution, date and location of birth, and a person to contact for address updates.  For cards of men with dates of birth after 1922, additional information may include military service or the registrant’s alien registration number.

 

Classification Ledgers (SSS Form 102) chronicle the status of each man’s eligibility, exemptions, tests, entry, and final disposition from service.  The codes for these classification ledgers can be found on the Selective Service System’s website.  Supplementary information provided by registrants (medical records, school enrollment forms, or other documents supporting reasons for classifications) was not considered permanent record material and as such was not retained by the Selective Service Commission.  For example, the National Archives cannot provide documentation or a reason for why someone was classified as “4F”. 

 

Date of Birth Ranges of Draft Cards in NARA holdings:

 

WWII

  • 4/28/1877 – 2/16/1897 (Known as 4th Registration or Old Man’s Draft)
  • 2/17/1897 – 3/31/1929 (1st – 6th Registrations, except 4th)

Post War

  • 8/30/1922 – 1940
  • 1941 – 3/28/1957

 

Washington D.C. is considered a state in this series.  NARA has Draft Registration Cards for men born between 4/28/1877 – 3/28/1957.

 

In addition to holding the draft cards for states, NARA also has draft cards for the following territories:

Guam                   8/30/1922 – 3/28/1957

Canal Zone          4/28/1877 – 3/28/1957

Puerto Rico          4/28/1877 – 3/28/1957

Virgin Islands       2/17/1897 – 3/28/1957

 

The 4th Registration draft (Old Man’s Draft) cards were scheduled for destruction prior to the 1973 Fire.  The following states had already destroyed their collection of this date range before the National Archives took custody of the records:



North Carolina               Mississippi                    Maine

Alabama                         Florida

Georgia                          South Carolina

Tennessee                       New Mexico



How to access these records

 


 

To access draft registration cards or classification ledgers for 1940 – 1975, please fill out the ‘Selective Service System Records Request’ form and send it to:

 

National Archives & Records Administration

National Archives - St. Louis

ATTN: RL-SL

P.O. Box 38757

St. Louis, MO 63138-0757

 

For information on WWI draft cards, please visit our website, ‘World War I Draft Registration Cards’ where you will find a history on this series as well as how to access them.

 

You may find more information on this topic on the webpage ‘Selective Service Records’.

 

Draft Cards Online

 


 

As of October 2018, the WWII Draft Registration Cards from the following states have been scanned and uploaded to Fold3, but can be searched through Ancestry.com as well.  National Archives locations have public use computers where researchers may access both Fold3 and Ancestry for free. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

District of Columbia

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maryland

Minnesota

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Mexico

North Carolina

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Texas

Utah

Virgin Islands

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wyoming

Vessel & Station Log Books

 

The National Archives and Records Administration preserves the log books of the vessels and stations of several Federal agencies (see list), capturing different levels of information and time spans.

 


Researching Log Books
Original log books in NARA holdings are almost always open for research. To view them in person, please consult our website and choose the NARA location you wish to visit. Reference archivists can also perform reviews of log books you are interested in ahead of your visit to verify specific events or dates of interest. Please email the location’s reference team ahead of time, or use the Contact Us online form, to request this service. To order copies of records online, visit our website.

U.S. Navy Logbooks


Navy logbooks are our most popular and well-known logbooks. Logbooks, also referred to as Captain's Logs or Deck Logs, consist of chronological entries documenting the daily activities of a Navy ship or unit. Individual logbooks are arranged chronologically by date, with entries in each day's log arranged chronologically by the time of day. The level of information contained in these volumes ranges from simple entries documenting daily routines to detailed meteorological and operational accounts. Information also can include:

  • Documentation of disciplinary hearings
  • Sick lists
  • Occasional injuries
  • Use of daily rations, etc.

Information available differs widely based on when the logbook was created.Logbooks/Deck Logs are not detailed journals describing a ship's mission and all events transpiring in and around the ship, although they do sometimes provide information about a ship's operations. The entries can be repetitive and dry. They list officers until 1957 but do not list all the personnel on board. Look for those listings in the ship’s Muster Rolls or Personnel Diaries. Please keep in mind that references to individuals in a Deck Log are incidental and most service members are not referenced in a Deck Log. But a Deck Log can provide background information relating to the service of an individual service member such as identifying the service member’s location by identifying the ship’s location.

Some of the Navy deck logs in NARA custody have been digitized and are available online through the National Archives Catalog. Please check the listing to see if a ship in which you are interested is available. 

During wartime or by Presidential order, logs of U.S. Revenue Cutters and U.S. Coast Guard vessels & facilities will be filed along with the Navy Logbooks.*


Logs of Armed Guard Vessels


During WWII, the Naval Transportation Service Division (established on January 26, 1942) determined the current and prospective shipping requirements for the Navy exclusive of those of the operating forces of the fleets and made long-range plans for the allocation of merchant type ships by the War Shipping Administration to the navy. It procured merchant-type vessels over 1,000 tons gross by charter or purchase from the U.S. Maritime Commission on the War Shipping Administration, for use by the Navy as auxiliaries.
The logs are part of the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 - 2007 (Record Group 24) and the files are part of the Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1875 - 2006 (Record Group 38). Both are located at the National Archives in College Park, MD:

  • Armed Guard Logs, 1943 - 1945 -- These logs were prepared under the direction of the Armed Guard commander aboard each ship, and comprise a brief daily account of events of the armed guard crew including mustering, disciplinary actions, and security matters.
  • Armed Guard Files, 1934 - 1946 -- The files often include more information about the activities of the Merchant vessel and Armed Guard crew that contained in the logs.


On October 1, 1949, the Naval Transportation Service Division was absorbed into the Military Seas Transportation Service (MSTS) (see below)..

Logs of U.S. Army Vessels

 

At various times in the U.S. Army's history, the Quartermaster General directed the operations of Army-owned and -contracted vessels for the movement and supplying of soldiers. The Continental Army utilized vessels during the Revolutionary War as early as 1775, and the U.S. Army directed vessels for logistical support during operations on the frontier as early as 1792. However, NARA has received few logs of these U.S. Army vessels. NARA’s holdings of U.S. Army vessel logs mostly reflect the movement of supplies and personnel during the time of the the Mexican War (1846-1848), the American Civil War (1861-1864), the Spanish-American War (1898), the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), and World War I (1917-1919). Information provided in these series varies widely, but often includes name and location, date, name of commander, meteorological data, operations conducted and fuel/coal expended. A few Engineer Logs for and Port Logs about transports are also available.

According to NARA records, in 1951 the Department of the Army destroyed all manifests, logs of vessels, and troop movement files of United States Army Transports for World War II and most of the passenger lists. 

All series of logbooks and related records listed below are part of the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General (Record Group 92): Located at the National Archives in Washington, DC


Located at the National Archives in Seattle, WA


Located at the National Archives in College Park, MD

Deck Logs of the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) and the Military Sealift Command (MSC), 1946-81


The Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) was established in 1949 to consolidate shipment of military supplies from the four separate services used during World War II into a unified command. Many of the ships that formed MSTS in the early years were reassigned from the Army Transportation Service (ATS) [See U.S. Army Vessels].  During the Vietnam War, MSTS became the Military Sealift Command (MSC). These logs, which evolved over time and have varying degrees of consistently recorded information, date from as early as 1946 and reach to 1981.

  • Information captured in these logbooks includes:
  • Ship name
  • Date
  • location or port of departure and planned destination
  • ship's course
  • total distance traveled
  • meteorological information
  • brief entries giving a running account of the principal activities aboard the ship.

 

Entries typically mention the ship departing or entering a port, mustering the crew, drills and inspections, passing navigational buoys, setting lookouts, bringing a harbor pilot aboard, and sea conditions. If a crewman took ill or was injured and sent to sick bay, this also may be noted.

 

All series of logbooks listed below are part of the Records of the Naval Operating Forces (Record Group 313) and located at the National Archives in College Park, MD:



U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and U.S. Coast Guard Logs


The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and U.S. Coast Guard both created logbooks housed at the National Archives. The types of logs created include logbooks of depots, bases, lifesaving stations, and air stations; Coast Guard vessels, merchant vessels, and revenue cutters; lighthouses, light stations, tenders, and light vessels; and Port Security units.
The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) is the nation's oldest continuous armed maritime service and merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service (USLSS) in 1915 to form today's U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). The U.S. Lighthouse Service became part of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939.  Most of the logs in NARA custody date from 1822 to the 1980s, but the earliest log book is that of the USRC Massachusetts for 1791-1795.
These logs vary greatly in the amount of detail they contain, depending on when they were created, who created them, and their intended purpose. They mostly contain chronological entries documenting the daily activities of a Revenue Cutter or Coast Guard vessels or units fulfilling the multiple missions of this military service, including:

  • enforcing the collection of revenue customs
  • smuggling and slave trade interdiction
  • search and rescue operations
  • environmental and shipping law enforcement


The logs can also include:

  • summaries of disciplinary hearings
  • sick lists
  • occasional reports of injuries
  • use of daily rations
  • ship inventories


All series of logbooks listed below are part of the Records of the United States Coast Guard (Record Group 26) and located at the National Archives in Washington, DC:


Other type of log books available:

For U.S. Coast Guard logs from 1972 to the 1980s  see our Regional Archives depending on the vessel's home port and location of station.  Logs beyond the time span of NARA holdings remain in the legal custody of the U.S. Coast Guard.

 

*During wartime or by Presidential order, logs of U.S. Revenue Cutters and U.S. Coast Guard vessels & facilities will be filed along with the Navy Logbooks.



Logbooks of U.S. Merchant Marine Vessels


The Merchant Marines created two types of logbooks:

  • Official Logbooks
  • Merchant Logbooks.


Official Logbooks were required for all foreign voyages mandated by legislation enacted in 1872, and were occasionally filed for coastal voyages when a birth or death occurred during the voyage. All of these logbooks are part of the Records of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (Record Group 41):


Most Official Logbooks from 1939 to the 1980s are part of the Records of the U.S. Coast Guard (RG 26) (see above) and are located in the regions based on port in which log was turned in.
Merchant logbooks were maintained by various U.S. flag merchant vessels operating around the world. Included are logs for:

  • Chief officers'
  • Engineers'
  • Deck departments'
  • Engine room logs


Logbook entries also  include:

  • hourly reports on operating systems
  • personnel on duty
  • any problems or unusual situations
  • weather conditions


All of these records are part of the Records of the U.S. Maritime Commission, 1917 - 1950(Record Group 178) and located at the National Archives in College Park, MD:


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USCGS)


NOAA and the USCGS conduct hydrographic and oceanographic surveys and studies. The logbooks, with some variance, include daily entries of the ship's position, weather conditions, remarks on the status of each department of the ship, notations of any mechanical problems or unusual weather conditions, and descriptions of the day's hydrographic and oceanographic surveying activities.
There are two USCGS series that contain logbooks and are part of the Records of US Coast and Geodetic Survey (Record Group 23):

These two series are located at the National Archives in College Park, MD.


The NOAA logbooks are part of the Records of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Record Group 370):

This series is located at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

 

This series is located at the National Archives in Seattle.

Although there may be yearbooks and crew photos intermingled with textual records of the units, ships or crews, they are not considered permanent records unless the photographs were taken by the Army Signal Corps or other official military photographers usually for publicity. These photographs were considered permanent records are part of the photograph collections listed in the blog postings highlighted below.

 

Sometimes, the officers of a unit or crew will pay for a photographer to come to their base to take pictures, These photographs sometimes are filed in the records of the unit or crew but oftentimes they are just distributed to the individual members with no permanent copy kept.

 

NARA's Special Media Branch blog, "The Unwritten Record," posted a 4-Part series that explains about researching for military unit or crew photographs during WWII using records at the National Archives in College Park - Still Pictures (RDSP). Please contact RDSP via email at stillpix@nara.gov if you have any questions about these records:

 

Come out and join us for a U.S. Coast Guard Logbook Scan-a-Thon on Wednesday, April 25, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Innovation Hub at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

 

This event is part of the Innovation Hub’s effort to digitize pages from logbooks of United States Coast Guard vessels that served in the Vietnam War. Learn more about the Coast Guard in Vietnam project.

 

During the scan-a-thon, you will help to scan pages from these records so they can be made available online. We’re hoping to scan 2,000 pages in one day!

 

At noon, archives specialist Adebo Adetona will give a talk about the Coast Guard’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

 

All you need for this event is a research card, which you can get at the National Archives Building. You don’t need to have any prior experience scanning records—we’re happy to show you how it works.


Email innovationhub@nara.gov to reserve a scanner and time slot.

The Still Picture Branch of the National Archives is excited to share more than 6,000 recently digitized photographs of U.S. Marine Corps activities in World War II and Korea.

 

A large portion of this incredible series covers USMC presence in Korea, with additional images dating back to the advent of photography and covering a wide variety of USMC activities. Within this series, you will find images of USMC aircraft, the Marine Corps Band, artillery, atomic bomb testing in Nevada in 1952, communication equipment, commandants, the Cunningham Collection (early aviation photographs), insignia, medical evacuation (medevac), Marines on liberty, Medal of Honor recipients, enlistment posters, the surrender of Japan, and Japanese and Allied prisoners of war (POWs).

 

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The World War II subjects include the Battles of Bataan, Bougainville, Cape Gloucester, Central Solomons, Corregidor, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Japan, Marshall Islands, Midway, New Britain, Okinawa, Philippines, Saipan, Tarawa, Tinian, and Wake Islands. There are also photographs of Navajo Indians and wounded soldiers. The Korea section consists of photographs of various USMC campaigns in Korea, as well as views of aircraft, artillery, bunkers, cemeteries, close air supply and support, communications, engineering activities, captured weapons and equipment, and much more.

 

Learn more about these records in the National Archives Catalog newsletter.

 

Image sources:

 

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Overview: 1969 to August 1974

 

Under the Nixon administration, the Vietnam War officially came to a close.  Though Nixon had secretly begun talks with the North Vietnamese during Johnson’s presidency, in 1969 the scope of U.S. involvement expanded with bombing campaigns in Cambodia and incursions in Laos.  At the same time, the administration worked to build up the South Vietnamese armed forces in order to allow for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops.  During Nixon’s second term, the Vietnam War was officially ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.

 

Domestically, student anti-war demonstrations intensified.  The most infamous took place at Kent State; National Guard troops shot into a crowd of students and protesters, killing four. In 1971, the New York Times and Washington Post began publishing excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, a study on U.S. involvement in Vietnam compiled by the Department of Defense.  Nixon administration attempts to quiet the scandal created by the publication of the papers became part of the wider Watergate investigation, leading to Nixon’s downfall and resignation in 1974.

 

President Richard Nixon with U.S. Army 1st Infantry

Division Troops during Visit to Dian, South Vietnam, 7/30/1969

 

Catalog Resources:

Presidential Daily Diary, 1/21/1969 - 8/9/1974- The Daily Diary chronicles the activities of the President, from the time he left the private residence until he retired for the day, including personal and private meetings, events, social and speaking engagements, trips, telephone calls, meals, routine tasks, and recreational pursuits.

 

Vietnam- Correspondence from Richard Nixon to Nguyen Van Thieu- Letters between Nixon and the president of South Vietnam in 1972.

                                                                                                           

WHSF: Contested, 48-1- Analysis of public reaction to the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

 

February 10, 1973 - Nixon, Vice President Agnew- Discussion of the situation in Southeast Asia after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.

 

February 15, 1973 - Nixon, Defense Secretary Elliot Richardson and February 15, 1973 -Nixon, H.R. Haldeman- Meeting minutes from discussions of the reception of returning American POWs, and American attitudes toward the military and the “Nixon Doctrine.”

 

This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson signs "Gulf of Tonkin" resolution, 8/10/1964

 

Overview: November 1963 to 1968

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Lyndon Johnson inherited an increasingly deteriorating military and political situation in Vietnam.  Though Kennedy had reportedly begun to cool on the conflict, Johnson made the choice to escalate; 1965 saw the first deployment of American ground troopshttps://catalog.archives.gov/id/74258721as well as the beginning of Operation Rolling Thunder, a three year aerial bombardment campaign.

 

The Gulf of Tonkin Incidenthttps://catalog.archives.gov/id/2803383in the summer of 1964  gave the Johnson administration justification for further escalation and troop deployments.  Anti-war protests in the U.S. escalated in turn.



Catalog Resources:

National Security Council Meetings Files, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969- Notes from official NSC meetings during the Johnson administration, many of which dealt with Vietnam.

 

President's Daily Diary, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969- Activity logs prepared by secretaries outside the Oval Office. Sample of entries, starting with LBJ's first days in office after assassination. A major topic is Gulf of Tonkin attacks.

 

Johnson White House Photographs, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969-238 photos relating to Johnson’s visit to Vietnam, Johnson with troops in Vietnam and in the U.S., the Honolulu Conference, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, President Nguyen Van Thieu, Johnson administration advisers, and anti-war demonstrations.

 

Letter from John Steinbeck to President Lyndon Johnson, 5/28/1966- This letter was sent after trip by Steinbeck and his son to Washington, D.C., where the two were received by Johnson. Steinbeck praises Johnson, talking derisively about anti-war protesters in previous American wars

 

Letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson from Jackie Robinson, 4/18/1967- Robinson discusses the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s opposition to Vietnam, the role of Vietnam protest in civil rights, and states his support for Johnson.

 

This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

Overview: August 1974 to 1976

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Although Nixon had officially ended US military involvement, Vietnam continued to be an ongoing concern for the Ford Administration through the Fall of Saigon in April, 1975.

 

The administration's efforts to avert the Communist overrun of South Vietnam were met with indifference to outright opposition. There was little support for financial aid in Congress, and even less for a proposed Congressional delegationhttps://catalog.archives.gov/id/1552953to Vietnam.  (Ford was still trying to organize the trip into March of 1975.)

 

The military defeat of South Vietnam in in the spring of 1975 sparked a massive evacuation of US personnel and Vietnamese allies, known as Operation Frequent Wind.  In the wake of the refugee crisis this sparked, Congress did approve humanitarian aid and eventually many Vietnamese settled in the United States.

 

Though many prisoners of war had been repatriated in 1973 after the conclusion of the war, the issue of the treatment POWs and American soldiers missing in action (MIA) continued to play a significant role in US foreign policy, leading the US to lobby against Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s acceptance as a member state in the United Nations through the end of the Ford administration

   President Gerald R. Ford Holding a Refugee Baby on an Evacuation

Bus at San Francisco International Airport Following the Arrival of an

Operation Babylift Plane from South Vietnam, 4/5/1975

 

Catalog Resources:

East Asia and Pacific Country Files, 1974 – 1977- Materials prepared for and by President Gerald R. Ford's National Security Adviser and National Security Council staff. Include discussions of the Vietnam War and its effects in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

 

Vietnam - Question and Answer Briefing Sheets (1975)- National Security Council materials, from the papers of Richard (Dick) Cheney.

 

Memorandum from Clinton E. Granger to Brent Scowcroft Regarding a Report on Vietnam, 4/5/1975- Report on situation in South Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon.

 

Amnesty - Ford Foundation Study of Effects of Vietnam on Veterans, Deserters and Evaders- 1974 study of the psychological, economic, social situation of veterans and anti-war activists, and recommendations of activities for the Ford Foundation.

 

1975/05/23 HR6894 Making Appropriations for Special Assistance to Refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam- Congressional appropriation for refugee resettlement and relocation.


This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

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Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council- Cuba Crisis. President Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. White House, Cabinet Room., 10/29/1962

 

Overview: 1961 to November 1963

President Eisenhower administration began first boots on the ground involvement of United States in Vietnam, sending the Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the South Vietnamese military after the partitioning of Vietnam in 1954. 

 

In the fallout of Cold War escalations including the Cuban Missile Crisis and construction of the Berlin Wall, Vietnam became a critical stage for US resistance to Communist influence.  The Kennedy administration committed to increased economic and military support, growing the number of military advisers from Eisenhower’s 900 to over 16,000 by 1963.

 

One of the most definitive actions taken by the Kennedy administration was its (tacit) approval of the military coup that overthrew and assassinated South Vietnamese President Diem.

 

Catalog Resources:

America's Stake in Vietnam June 1, 1956, 6/1/1956-  Kennedy speech outlining the case for U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

 

Papers of President Kennedy: White House Central Files: White House Subject File: National Security – Defense- Famous series of letters between JFK and Mrs. Bobbie Lou Pendergrass about the death of her brother, James McAndrew, and the purpose of US involvement in Vietnam (Feb 1963).

 

World Reaction to Developments in Vietnam, 9/14/1963- Viewpoints from Far East, Western Europe, Near East-South Asia, Africa, Latin America.

 

Report of McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam, 10/2/1963- Political and military situation in Vietnam.  Cautiously optimistic, but notes political tension and dissent with the Diem regime.  Diem would be overthrown and assassinated a month after this report was submitted.

 

Vietnam: General, 1963 and Vietnam: Security, 1963 from series Country Files, 1/20/1961 - 11/22/1963- State Department cables between the US Ambassador to Vietnam and the White House detailing the situation in Vietnam, especially concerns with the South Vietnamese government.

 

American Opinion Summary Department of State -- Vietnam, dated 10 September 1963., 9/10/1963

 

This blog is just a sample of the information available in the National Archives catalog. For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.

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When researching individual veterans, researchers have two types of records to pull information from: personnel records and operational records.

 

Personnel files for individual soldiers- stored in the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO- will often contain service dates, rank, death date, and potentially background information about medals received.  Generally, personnel records will not include information about what a soldier did or where they were located during their time in service.

 

Unit and ship records are helpful for understanding the movements and activities during the Vietnam War.  Although unit and ship records usually don’t include names, they can give context to information found in personnel files and explain what that ship or unit was doing during the war. 

 

Personnel Records

 

Personnel records can be requested online through the National Archives eVetRecs portal.  Most Vietnam-related personnel records are not considered archival,* so full personnel files are only served to the veteran, the veteran’s next-of-kin, or a researcher with written permission from the veteran/next-of-kin.

 

Links:

 

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) - Veterans and Next-of-Kin

Explains the request process.  See links on the left side of the page for more information about military personnel files and the request process.  Next-of-kin is specified as: un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister of the veteran.

 

Access to Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) for the General Public

Explains the request process for non-next-of-kin researchers.  This page specifies what types information from personnel files can be released to the general public .



In addition to personnel files, the National Archives hosts a number of searchable databases where researchers can locate information for specific individuals through Access to Archival Databases (AAD).



U.S. Military Casualties, Missing in Action, and Prisoners of War from the Era of the Vietnam War

These databases can be searched using identifiers (names, service numbers, home county/state at time of service, etc.)  for individual soldiers and personnel.

 

Data about U.S. Military Personnel

Includes the Vietnam Experience Study Files, which tracked selected Army personnel who served in 1967 and 1968, and a database containing information concerning some of the awards and decorations given to U.S. military personnel and allied foreign military personnel.



*Military personnel records accessioned into the National Archives become archival 62 years after the service member's separation from the military.  So, as of 2017, the records of personnel discharged after 1955 are not open to the public.

 

Unit and Ship Records

 

Archival operational military records from the Vietnam War era are held in the National Archives in College Park, MD.  Some of these records are available online (see below).  For assistance with Vietnam-era operational military records, contact the College Park reference unit here: archives2reference@nara.gov.  (For tips on the reference request process, check out this History Hub blog post: What to Expect When You're Requesting.)  You can get started learning about the National Archives’ Vietnam-era records on archives.gov.

 

Links:

 

Groupings of Databases and Downloadable Data Files

Electronic Data Records Relating to Military Objectives and Activities During the Vietnam War

Data specific to Land Military Operations and Activities

Data specific to Air Military Operations and Activities (Navy air sorties included in this grouping)

Data specific to Sea Military Operations and Activities

 

Digitized Records

Navy Deck Logs Available in the National Archives Catalog (Arranged by vessel name)

               -Information about deck logs in the Vietnam era

-Information NOT Included in Deck Logs

Marine Corps Command Chronologies

NAID 26381445 Marine w. Dog.png

NAID 26381445

 

These records are digitized and available online through the National Archives catalog and Access to Archival Databases (AAD).  This is not a comprehensive list of every Vietnam War resource available online, but hopefully these links will be a helpful stepping off point for historical research about individuals and events connected to this period. The National Archives also has a new Vietnam War research portal, which you can learn more about here.

 

 

NAID 26398247.pngPhotograph Series

(Photo: South Vietnamese Pilot and Family Evacuate during Operation Frequent Wind)

 

Black and White Photographs of Marine Corps Activities in Vietnam, 1962 – 1975- Photos of a wide range of subjects including: marines in combat, military dogs, ceremonies and entertainers, aircraft, visits by VIPs, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, Viet Cong, Vietnamese civilians, Operation Homecoming, and Operation Frequent Wind.

 

General Photograph File of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1927 – 1981- This series covers multiple wars, including Vietnam.

 

General Black-and-White Photographic File of the Department of Navy, 1958 – 1981- Includes photos of POW releases, naval combat and ships, and medical staff with wounded soldiers.

 

 

Motion Pictures

Vietnam, Vietnam- This film reviews the history of Vietnam and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The war footage includes combat scenes, civilian massacres and mistreatment of Prisoners of War. The film concludes with a quick succession of comments by well-known and average citizens, some favoring U.S. involvement and some opposing it. The movie was executive produced and directed by John Ford, with a narration by actor Charlton Heston.

 

Motion Picture Films From "The Big Picture" Television Program Series, ca. 1950 - ca. 1975

Films from this series include Action Vietnam, The Army and Vietnam, The Big Red One in Vietnam, The Fight for Vietnam, The Hidden War in Vietnam, U.S. Army Advisor in Vietnam , Vietnam Crucible, and Why Vietnam?.  The first two minutes of each film is currently available in the National Archives catalog, but many of these films have been uploaded to YouTube by third parties.

 

 

Records Relating to Combat

Links to unit- and ship-level operational records can be found here.

 

Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, 6/1967 - 1/1969- Also known as the Pentagon Papers.  This series covers US involvement in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from WWII to 1967.  An index to the materials is available in the catalog here.

 

Vietnam Special Studies Group (VSSG) Files, July 1, 1969 - January 31, 1974 (Downloadable data file)- Summarized data about the security of hamlets in South Vietnam as derived from the Hamlet Evaluation System 1971 (HES71) files. The categories describing the security of the hamlet indicate the degree to which the GNV or Viet Cong has presence or influence in the hamlet.

 

General Records, 1965 – 1972- "This series consists of a wide variety of records that were maintained by the Command Historian. The records include Command Historian administrative files, as well as other unit histories, counterinsurgency studies, weapons effectiveness reports, personnel reports, interviews, handbooks, photographs, and operational reports - lessons learned (ORLL)."

 

 

NAID 532511 POW Wives.png

Records Relating to Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA)

(Photo: Marine Wives at Camp Pendleton, California Waiting for the Return of Prisoners of War, 2/12/1973)

(Digitized records relating to POWs and MIA, especially photos, are located in several series across multiple record groups and creators. Many are located in presidential records, military records, state department records, and senate records.  They can be located using a keyword search of the National Archives catalog.)

 

Cluster Analysis Map of Vietnam, 1991 – 1992- Cluster map of intelligence reports of US POWs in Vietnam from the records of the U.S. Senate.

 

CBS REPORTS: POWS PAWNS OF WAR, 6/1971, Part 1 and Part 2- CBS documentary on treatment of US prisoners in North Vietnam and Viet Cong prisoners in South Vietnam, and includes interviews with wives and families of American POWS.

 

Divider/Subject - 280 - Operation Homecoming (Repatriation of U.S. Marine POWs)  and Divider/Subject - 293 - Prisoners (SEE ALSO "Operation Homecoming") - Photos from the series Black and White Photographs of Marine Corps Activities in Vietnam, 1962 – 1975

 

 

Records Relating to Veterans

Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study Files, 1986 – 1987- Study commissioned by the VA on the causes, evolution, and extent of readjustment problems experienced by veterans of the Vietnam War.

 

 

Records Relating to Anti-War Demonstrations

NAID 2803434.png(Photo: Veterans for Peace at the March on the Pentagon, 10/21/1967)

 

Survey on Campus Unrest Data File (Downloadable data file)-Study done by Nixon President's Commission on Campus Unrest with information collected from 1967-1970. This series consists of a social survey of college and university administrators, faculty members and student leaders. It includes information about the institutions and the students, and about incidents on respondents' campuses that involved the National Guard, off-campus police, outsiders, court injunctions, property destruction, injuries or death. The survey also includes information about respondents' attitudes toward causes of unrest, the institutional and governmental responses, and respondents' proposals to limit future incidents.

 

Johnson White House Photographs, 11/22/1963 - 1/20/1969- This series includes several photos of anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C. during the Johnson Administration.

 

Records of the Kent State University Investigative Team, 1970 – 1970- Materials collected to investigate the death of Kent State student demonstrators, as part of President Nixon’s Commission on Campus Unrest.

 

Coffin, Spock, et al. Protest- Digitized items from an investigation of anti-war activities conducted by the U.S. Attorney for the Judicial District of Massachusetts.

 

 

Records Relating to Special Events

After Action Reports and Other Records Relating to the Bob Hope Christmas Tours, 1968 – 1972- "This series consists of after action reports relating to the several Bob Hope Christmas shows staged within Vietnam ("Operation Holly", 1966-1970; "Operation Jingle Bells", 1971)."

The National Archives has a wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in the Vietnam conflict, including photographs, textual and electronic records, audiovisual recordings, exhibits, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events.

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To coincide with the opening of the our newest exhibit, Remembering Vietnam, we've launched a Vietnam War research portal. This portal creates a central space for all National Archives resources and content related to the Vietnam War for use by researchers, students and educators, museum goers, veterans, and those curious about the conflict.

 

Browse our interactive timeline to journey through events with select records from the National Archives Catalog.

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You can also explore the Vietnam conflict by topic areas: Diplomacy, In Country, The War at Home, and Post-Conflict Events. Each topic page includes links to digitized records and photographs in the Catalog, descriptions of records available for research, educator resources, articles and blog posts and more.

 

Are you looking to volunteer as a citizen archivist? One of our current missions asks for your help to transcribe the captions and tag features in these black and white photographs of Marine Corps activities in Vietnam. Start tagging and transcribing on our Citizen Archivist Dashboard.

 

Check it out! We'd love to hear your thoughts on the Vietnam War research portal. Have you learned something new or found a unique photo or an interesting record? Please share with us! Email us at citizenarchivist@nara.gov.