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October 2002

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U.S. Department of State Releases Volumes oon Vietnam

The U.S. Department of State released another volume of its authoritative multi-volume series, Foreign Relations of the United States.—Ed

By 1967, with U.S. involvement in the conflict in Vietnam escalating, President Lyndon B. Johnson and senior administration officials were willing to go to great lengths to end the war, but not at the cost of sacrificing a non-Communist South Vietnam. They were determined to continue to deter the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, but recognized that, despite extensive U.S. bombing and large troop increases over the previous 2 years, the costs were becoming exceptionally high. These and other tough choices facing the administration are the main themes of "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968," Volume V, Vietnam, 1967, released on October 11, 2002, by the Department of State. The volume is part of the Department's ongoing program to make available the official documentary record of American foreign policy in the "Foreign Relations" series. Volume V carries forward the coverage of the Johnson administration policies on the war, which were published in volumes I-IV.

President Johnson relied on his principal foreign policy advisers, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Special Assistant Walt Rostow, as well as many other official and unofficial advisers, for advice and recommendations on policy for Vietnam. The principal focus of the volume is on Washington policymaking; a secondary emphasis is on the events and policy repercussions in South Vietnam.

The volume covers a broad range of topics and themes, the foremost of which is the U.S. efforts to explore a possible negotiated settlement of the war. There is in-depth coverage of the major unsuccessful peace initiatives, Sunflower, Pennsylvania, and Buttercup, as well as less detailed documentation on of other less promising peace initiatives. Another major theme of the volume is the military intensification of the war effort in the hopes of forcing the enemy to accept a peace settlement. Important components of this increased effort were an intensified bombing campaign against North Vietnam and augmentation of the level of U.S. forces in Vietnam. The volume documents the difficult Presidential decisions and the long debate and final compromise decision by Johnson to commit more U.S. forces to Vietnam.

The problem of U.S. domestic support of the war is a third theme of the volume, as the Johnson administration grappled with building anti-war pressure. Criticisms in Congress included calls for a negotiated settlement to end the war, Senator J. William Fulbright's claim that the administration's direction of the war was flawed, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy's proposal for a bombing halt.

During 1967 the Johnson administration brought new personnel to Vietnam, naming Ellsworth Bunker as Ambassador and charging Robert Komer with pacification and rural development. The administration encouraged, without much success, the reorganization and reform of the South Vietnamese Government. Also documented is the intense U.S. interest in the South Vietnamese presidential elections, especially U.S. concerns about the lack of unity among the two military contenders for the presidency, a problem which the South Vietnamese military settled by insisting on a unified military slate under Nguyen Van Thieu. The United States worked to make the Thieu-Ky candidacy attractive to the voters, advising and encouraging a grass roots political party to support President Thieu. Toward the end of the year, the U.S. intelligence community engaged in a debate about the size of the enemy in South Vietnam, the so-called "order of battle" controversy. Johnson also convened the so-called "Wise Men," a group of veteran foreign policy experts, to reassess U.S. policy. The result of this examination was advice to the President to "stay the course," a view that Secretary of Defense McNamara opposed and that led directly to his resignation.

The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the volume.  For further information, contact Edward C. Keefer, Acting General Editor of the Foreign Relations series, at (202) 663-1127; fax: (202) 663-1289; e-mail: history@state.gov.  The texts of the volume, the summary, and this press release will soon be available on the Office's Web site: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/.  Printed copies of  this volume can be purchased from the Government Printing Office.  Please go to http://bookstore.gpo.gov/.

October 2002


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