Library research room hours are 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday - Friday, closed weekends and Federal holidays. Appointments are not required, but they are recommended for more effective reference assistance. The reference desk may be reached by telephone at (734) 205-0555 or by e-mail.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and President Ford discuss the American evacuation of Saigon, April 28, 1975.
View detailed inventories of the archival collections summarized below by clicking on the collection titles. You can also view selected documents on the Vietnam War.
BUCHEN, PHILIP: Files, 1974-1977
Counsel to the President Buchen and his legal staff helped interpret the congressional consultation requirements of the 1973 War Powers Act. The act was tested during the evacuations of Phnom Penh and Saigon, and the Mayaguez military action. Buchen and staff also advised on refugee admittance and the clemency program for draft evaders and military absence offenders.
FORD, GERALD: Papers as Congressman and Vice President, 1949-1974
Starting with a 1953 newsletter to constituents while visiting French Indo-China, Congressman Ford's public statements, constituent mail, reference materials from House colleagues, Republican Party materials, and more, track the course of the war and its domestic reverberations.
GOODELL, CHARLES E.: Papers, 1973-77
Goodell chaired the Presidential Clemency Board, established by Ford to devise and administer an earned clemency program for Vietnam War-era draft resisters and military absence offenders. Included are board minutes, reports, case summaries (names omitted), and internal memoranda. A closely related collection is the papers of board executive director Robert J. Horn.
HARTMANN, ROBERT T.: Papers, (1884) 1934-1983
As House Minority Leader Ford’s closest aide, Hartmann accumulated detailed minutes of Congressional leadership meetings with President Nixon, 1969-1972, transcripts of “Ev and Jerry Show” press briefings, 1966-1967, and a wide variety of material in such folders as “Credibility Gap” or “McNamara Mismanagement.”
LAIRD, MELVIN R.: Papers, 1959-2003
Laird was a senior House Republican in the 1960s and served as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense, 1969-72. Included are memoranda, briefing papers, reports, telegrams, press releases, and speeches on the Vietnam War, Cambodia, Laos, and POWs/MIAs. Many documents on the first three topics are still closed pending review for declassification, but it is possible to submit Mandatory Declassification Review requests for specific documents. Other folders may require consultation well in advance of a research visit so archivists may complete review of requested folders. A small number of series are closed pending the publication of a planned memoir. Please contact the Library for more information.
LEHMANN, WOLFGANG: Papers, 1973-1979 (1999)
Lehmann was chief deputy to U.S. ambassador Graham Martin in Saigon. His papers, photos, and oral histories record events of the time, administrative matters in the aftermath of the evacuation, and the subsequent published and unpublished accounts of Lehmann and other participants.
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FILES:
During 1999-2000, in anticipation of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the April 1975 fall of Phnom Penh and Saigon, the Ford Library staff identified and reviewed for possible declassification its National Security Adviser holdings on the Vietnam War. Every folder title that included the name of an Indochina country, person, entity, or event became part of the project. Folders containing approximately 39,000 pages were so identified and reviewed.
New rules on declassification (Executive Order 12958) and help from key agencies made possible the Library’s Vietnam project. The Department of State dispatched an on-site consultant whose guidance and encouragement were vital to the launch of the project. The Central Intelligence Agency digitized all Indochina documents for which it wholly or partly controls access (approximately 25% of the documents). It assigned a declassification team to review the digital version, and many of these documents are now reviewed and open. Where archivists lacked either the expertise or the authority to declassify an item, they have prepared a “pinksheet” withdrawal record to assist the researcher in seeking further action.
Some National Security Adviser material on Indochina undoubtedly was omitted from the April 2000 declassification project. This material is intermingled with material on many other topics, in many National Security Adviser subcollections, and filed under such general headings as, e.g. “ China” or “Scowcroft Chron File.”
The volume of Vietnam Declassification Project material in the following National Security Adviser collections will range from many boxes to a single folder.
____. BACKCHANNEL MESSAGES, 1974-1977
Especially sensitive White House communications with Ambassador Graham Martin in Saigon were sent and received in the White House Situation Room via “the Martin Channel.”
____. KISSINGER-SCOWCROFT WEST WING OFFICE FILES, 1969-1977
These files were kept in the White House west wing office occupied by Henry Kissinger and his successor, Brent Scowcroft. Many other National Security Adviser collections, by contrast, were kept by NSC and other staff elsewhere in the White House or in the adjacent Old Executive Office Building. The collection includes folders on the Mayaguez action, contacts with Prince Sihanouk, and extensive information on the secret peace negotiations between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho conducted through the French intermediary, Jean Sainteny, from 1969 until 1971.
____. LEGISLATIVE INTERDEPARTMENTAL GROUP FILES, 1971-1974 (1976)
The LIG was most active in 1971-1972. It coordinated efforts to deal with Congress on aid, military assistance, war limits and powers legislation, and information and declassification requests.
____. MEMORANDA OF CONVERSATIONS, 1973-1977
Detailed handwritten notes were taken during President Nixon’s and President Ford’s conversations with foreign government officials, senior U.S. national security officials, and occasional others. The notes were then rendered into formal, transcript-like memoranda of conversation.
____. NSC EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS STAFF: Files, (1969) 1973-1976
These work files of NSC staff encompass many diplomatic and military topics. Included, for example, are background materials for numbered National Security Study Memoranda; minutes of various Washington Special Action Group meetings; memoranda of conversations from Henry Kissinger’s and Alexander Haig’s trips to Indochina; reports for and from the Paris peace negotiations; and more.
____. NSC INFORMATION LIAISON WITH COMMISSIONS AND COMMITTEES: Files, 1974-1977
The NSC Secretariat accumulated Indochina-related documents of the 1960s while responding to Congressional investigations of the intelligence community in 1975. The Secretariat also handled Congressional and General Accounting Office requests for information about the Mayaguez action.
____. NSC INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC AFFAIRS STAFF: Files, (1973) 1975-1976
Contains a very few items on MIA issues and North Vietnamese economic affairs after the war.
____. NSC MEETINGS FILE, 1974-1977
A rich collection of transcript-like meeting minutes on many topics, especially SALT, but including the final weeks of the war and the Mayaguez action. All declassified minutes are reproduced on our website.
____. NSC PLANNING AND COORDINATION STAFF: Files, 1972-1975
Contains a few folders mostly on Cambodia and Vietnam aid issues
____. NSC PRESS AND CONGRESSIONAL LIAISON STAFF: Files, 1973-1976
Includes a small quantity of Vietnam-related material compiled to aid in answering press and Congressional queries on diverse topics.
____. NSC VIETNAM INFORMATION GROUP: Intelligence and other reports, 1967-1975
Primarily State Department and CIA cables concerning North and South Vietnam. They concern the war; relations with the Saigon government; South Vietnam’s political climate, opposition groups, religious sects, ethnic groups, labor unions, corruption, and censorship; peace negotiations; North Vietnam’s military and economy; and events in Laos and Cambodia.
____. NATIONAL SECURITY STUDY MEMORANDA AND DECISION MEMORANDA, 1974-1977.
All declassified memoranda are reproduced on our website. These include NSSM 213 on U.S. assistance policy and programs for South Vietnam, and NSDM 322 on captured U.S. equipment.
____. “OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM” CHRONOLOGICAL FILES, 1974-1977.
A collection of documents on a wide range of topics that were not logged into the NSC computer control number tracking system, including scattered items on the Vietnam War, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnamese refugees, and POWs/MIAs.
____. PRESIDENTIAL CORRESPONDENCE WITH FOREIGN LEADERS, 1974-1977
A folder for President Nguyen Van Thieu and one for President Lon Nol contain both substantive and routine correspondence, and supporting material.
____. PRESIDENTIAL COUNTRY FILES FOR EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC, 1974-1977
Primarily memos by NSC staff to the National Security Adviser, or by him to President Ford, regarding high-level issues in U.S. relations with North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Many State Department cables are included as well. The focus is on diplomacy rather than intelligence or military matters.
____. PRESIDENTIAL FILES OF NSC LOGGEED DOCUMENTS: Selected documents arranged by log number, (1973) 1974-1977
The NSC Secretariat often logged documents and created thin case files while tracking action on them. Indochina-related topics include: declassification requests for documents dating to 1960s, military assistance, aid, refugees, disposition of captured U.S. equipment, and the Mayaguez action.
____. PRESIDENTIAL NAME FILE, 1974-1977
Pertinent material is filed under: Cyrus Eaton, Admiral Noel Gayler, Senator Mike Mansfield, Ambassador Graham Martin, Senator Sam Nunn, Dean Rusk, W.R. Smyser, Senator John Sparkman, Sir Robert Thompson, and D. Warshaw.
____. PRESIDENTIAL SUBJECT FILE, 1974-1977
Includes folders on refugee issues and on White House liaison with the National League of Families of MIAs and POWs.
___. SAIGON EMBASSY FILES KEPT BY AMBASSADOR MARTIN: Copies made for the NSC, (1963) 1970-1975 (1976)
Most of the material dates from the Nixon and Ford administrations, but there are earlier items including material on the Diem coup in 1963. A chronological run of backchannel cables between Ambassadors Bunker and Martin in Saigon and national security adviser Kissinger comprise most of the collection. In addition, there are talking points for meetings with South Vietnamese officials, mainly President Thieu; reports and memoranda of conversations from those meetings; drafts of speeches; drafts of proposed agreements prepared by both sides; and military situation and intelligence reports. The secret and later public Paris peace talks are a dominant topic, along with the subsequent unraveling of the peace agreement culminating in the fall of Saigon.
____. STAFF ASSISTANT JOHN K. MATHENY FILES, 1975-1976
Matheny accumulated material from many agencies while working on an internal “ Mayaguez Performance Evaluation.”
NESSEN, RON: Papers, 1974-77
Press Secretary Nessen’s Papers include background material on events in Indochina and notes from many meetings partly concerned with Indochina. A separate collection, the Ron Nessen Files, has indexed transcripts of daily briefings for the White House press corps, with Indochina a frequent topic.
SEA-LAND SERVICES, INC.: Mayaguez interviews, 1975
Sea-Land, as corporate owner of the merchant ship Mayaguez, conducted extensive interviews with the ship’s officers and crew upon their rescue and arrival in Singapore.
U.S. MARINE CORPS HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION: Copies of Oral Histories on the Mayaguez Action and Related Marine Unit Operational Records, 1965-1977
The collection includes compact disks of oral histories (audio files only) with Marines who participated in the Mayaguez action. It also includes compact disks containing Marine unit operational records from the Mayaguez action. These disks, as an incidental by-product of their creation, also contain extensive operational records from the Marine units' participation in other phases of the Vietnam War. Most of these records date from 1965-1970, but some concern the evacuations of Phnom Penh and Saigon, and the later transfer of refugees to the United States. The Ford Library staff has printed to paper, as an additional convenience to researchers, all operational records that date from the Ford presidency.
U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: Intercepts of helicopter radio messages during the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy, Saigon , April 30, 1975
The NSA conducted authorized intercepts of helicopter pilot radio transmissions during the evacuation of the Embassy. The Library thanks the NSA Historical Office for discovering, declassifying, and copying the resulting texts.
U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Institutional Files, 1974-1977
The collection contains minutes of NSC meetings and Washington Special Actions Group meetings, focusing especially on the closing weeks of the Vietnam War and the evacuation of Americans and refugees.
WHITE HOUSE CENTRAL FILES (WHCF), 1974-1977
This vast file system was shared by all White House staff. Contents range from public opinion mail to declassified briefing papers. The WHCF-Subject File has numerous file headings pertinent to the war. The WHCF-Name File provides a partial name index, very incomplete, to the Subject File.
WHITE HOUSE CONGRESSIONAL RELATIONS OFFICE, 1974-77
This office provided Presidential-Congressional liaison on such issues as aid to South Vietnam, use of the War Powers Act, MIA and POW concerns, the clemency program, and the admittance of refugees. The files of office head Max Friedersdorf and each of his staff contain pertinent material. There is additional material in the files of Counsellor to the President John O. Marsh, to whom this office reported and who was himself a former Member of Congress (D-VA) and Defense Department official.
WHITE HOUSE PUBLIC LIAISON OFFICE
The Ted Marrs Files document interagency efforts on behalf of Indochina refugees entering the U.S. in 1975. The Milt Mitler Files concern Mitler’s liaison role with families of MIAs and POWs, 1972-1976.
WHITE HOUSE STAFF SECRETARY’S OFFICE
The James Connor Files include Cabinet meeting minutes, October 1974-October 1975, and these are reproduced on our website. A few hundred pages of Indochina-related material are found in the White House Special Files Unit: Presidential Files and in the Presidential Handwriting File, where the Staff Secretary kept some of the documents annotated by the President. The President’s Daily Diary gives a very detailed chronological accounting of the President’s day, including actual, as opposed to scheduled, meeting times and participants.
WHCA videotaped, for playback over the White House cable system, selections from network nightly news broadcasts and special broadcasts. Included is news about Indochina. WHCA audiotaped nearly all presidential speeches and press conferences, the daily press briefings and question sessions held by the Press Secretary, and occasional special briefings conducted from the White House by Secretary Kissinger and others.
White House Photo Office, 1974-1977
Photographers created a daily record of the President’s private meetings, travels, and public events. They occasionally recorded the work of White House staff, Ford family life, and the work of the First Lady. An exception to the normal scope Photo Office work is White House chief photographer David Kennerly’s record of General Weyand’s mission to Saigon in March 1975.
Other AV materials
Pertinent additional material includes photos from Congressman Ford’s 1953 trip to Saigon, photos from an album kept 1973-1975 by Saigon deputy ambassador Wolfgang Lehmann, photos acquired in the course of Ford Museum exhibit planning, complimentary videotapes provided by broadcasters of Vietnam War retrospectives, and miscellaneous other items.