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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

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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)."

 

 

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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.