DR. WILLIAM CONRAD GIBBONS

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The Papers of William Conrad Gibbons
(Deposited at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library)

Collection of fifteen linear feet (35 archive boxes) comprising copies of old original documents, being the files of historian William Conrad Gibbons, assembled during the research and writing of his multi-volume scholarly work THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AND THE VIETNAM WAR: EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE ROLES AND RELATIONSHIPS (Princeton University Press).

Filed in chronological order, the documents cover the presidency of Lyndon B Johnson (the period from November 1963 through December 1968). The documents are concerned primarily with the background, formulation, and implementation of high-level policy by officials in the White House, the Congress, the State Department, the Defense Department, and the armed forces during the Vietnam War.

The documents were copied at several libraries and repositories across the country, including the Johnson Library, the National Archives, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Military History Institute, the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

 

PUBLICATIONS

The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part I, 1945-1961, prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, by the Congressional Research Service, Senate Print 98-185, Pt. 1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1984), 365 pp.

The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part II, 1961-1964, prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, by the Congressional Research Service, Senate Print 98-185, Pt. 2 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1985), 424 pp.

The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part III, December-July 1965, prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, by the Congressional Research Service, Senate Print 100-163, Pt. 3 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1988), 489 pp.

The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part IV, July 1965-January 1968, prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, by the Congressional Research Service, Senate Print 100-163, Pt. 4 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 19__), __ pp.

All of the above volumes have also been published by Princeton University Press.

Paper on "Vietnam and the Breakdown of Consensus," for a conference on consensus and foreign policy held by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, and published in Richard A. Melanson and Kenneth W. Thompson (Eds.), Foreign Policy and Domestic Consensus (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1985).

Paper on "The Origin of the War Power Provision of the Constitution" for a conference at the State University of New York at Stonybrook honoring Jacob Javits, published in Michael Barnhart (Ed.), Congress and U.S. Foreign Policy (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York, 1987).

 

OTHER PAPERS

Paper on "The 1965 Decision to Send U.S. Ground Forces to Vietnam," for the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, April 16, 1987 in Washington D.C.

 

FOREWORD to Part I:  1945-1961
The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War
Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships

For most Americans, the Vietnam war was a national tragedy, and for many it was also an intense personal tragedy.  Beginning in 1945 as a revolution against France, it eventually became a war against communist control of state of Indochina.  Before it ended, 5 1/2 million American military personnel and thousands of American civilians had served in the area; 58,000 Americans had been killed, and more than 150,000 were wounded and hospitalized.  War deaths from both sides amounted to at least 1,300,000 for the period between 1965 and 1975, approximately 45 percent of which were noncombatant civilians.  Almost as many deaths, most of them civilians, were said to have occurred during the period 1945-54.

Sometimes called America's "longest war," it was also one of the most expensive in our history, costing an estimated $150 billion in direct expenses, and probably more than $500 billion in total costs, which is an amount nearly equal to the size of our national debt in today's currency.

The Vietnam war had a profound effect on America.  It helped to unravel a general foreign policy consensus, alienate many young people, and create doubt about the viability of our government's policies.  In its wake, new divisions emerged between Congress and the Executive, making it more difficult to reestablish the cooperation, trust, and continuity needed to fashion an effective bipartisan foreign policy.

Thus, by any standard, the Vietnam war represented an enormous commitment, and a grievous loss.

The Congress of the United States shares with the Executive the responsibility for decisions that led to our involvement in the Vietnam war and for approving the personnel and funds it required.  Only by examining those decisions can we gain from this bitter experience the full understanding needed to act more wisely in the future.

It has been with this goal in mind that the Committee on Foreign Relations under the chairmanship of Senator John Sparkman asked the Congressional Research Service to conduct an in-depth study of the roles and relationships of Congress and the Executive in the Vietnam war.

-Charles H. Percy, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

This study is being prepared by Dr. William Conrad Gibbons, Specialist in U.S. Foreign Policy in the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division. 

-Gilbert Guide, Director of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War
Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships

Part I:  1945-1961 This study seeks to describe and to analyze the course of U.S. public policymaking during the 30 years of the Vietnam war, beginning with [Part I] on the 1945-61 period.  It does not seek to judge or to assess responsibility, but it does attempt to locate responsibility, to describe roles, and to indicate why and how decisions were made.
   
   
Part II:  1961-1964 This volume, which is part of an overall study of the roles and relationships of the Executive and the Congress in the Vietnam war being prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations, describes events during the 1961-64 period as the United States became progressively more involved in the struggle taking place in Vietnam.

Click here to read the first chapter of Part II

   
   
Part III:  January-
July 1965
This third part of The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War--a study of policymaking during thirty years of U.S. involvement, 1945-1975--covers the watershed period from the decisions in February-March 1965 to launch the air war against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and to begin sending U.S. ground forces to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), to the decision of President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1965 to commit United States ground forces to defend South Vietnam.  "We did not choose to be the guardians at the gate," he announced on July 28, "but there is no one else... We will stand in Vietnam."
   
   
Part IV:  July 1965-January 1968 Book Description
This fourth volume of a five-part policy history of the U.S. government and the Vietnam War covers the core period of U.S. involvement, from July 1965, when the decision was made to send large-scale U.S. forces, to the beginning of 1968, just before the Tet offensive and the decision to seek a negotiated settlement. Using a wide variety of archival sources and interviews, the book examines in detail the decisions of the president, relations between the president and Congress, and the growth of public and congressional opposition to the war. Differences between U.S. military leaders on how the war should be fought are also included, as well as military planning and operations.  Among many other important subjects, the financial effects of the war and of raising taxes are considered, as well as the impact of a tax increase on congressional and public support for the war. Another major interest is the effort by Congress to influence the conduct of the war and to place various controls on U.S. goals and operations. The emphasis throughout this richly textured narrative is on providing a better understanding of the choices facing the United States and the way in which U.S. policymakers tried to find an effective politico-military strategy, while also probing for a diplomatic settlement.

First Sentence:
"On July 28. 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the United States was deploying addition troops to South Vietnam and declared that the U.S. would use its forces to defend South Vietnam from the "growing might and grasping ambition of Asian communism."

The Best Available Serious Vietnam War Study
Review by Bob Starr
This is the fourth and largest volume of a mammoth five-volume study (volume five is not yet complete). This review applies to both this volume and to the study in general.
The Gibbons Study is the largest, most balanced, and most complete study of US Government Vietnam policy currently available. Its goal is much like that of the Pentagon Papers, and in size it is just as big as the analysis section of that study. However, it is much more comprehensive, using resources (like the LBJ library) which were unavailable in the late 60s. It is all original analysis, and contains only a few pieces of contemporary primary documents (unlike the Pentagon Papers, which contains a million words of documents).

The study was commissioned by the Senate Foreign Relations committee in the late 1970s, and the work was done by Gibbons, a researcher in the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. True to his mission, Gibbons keeps his work as apolitical as possible.

Every page is very detailed and impeccably-referenced. The references themselves are worthy of note, as they use the rarely-used form of footnotes, as opposed to endnotes. Such a format puts the references right on the page with the main text, so it is far easier for the reader to make use of them. And, in the Gibbons study, the footnotes are often huge and detailed.

This work is frequently cited as a principal reference by many recent Vietnam writers, including Karnow, Hendrickson, Gardner, and Herring, exceeded in such references only by Foreigh Relations of the United States. It is a big, serious study, appropriate for only the most dedicated student of the war.

This volume is by far the largest in the series, amounting to approximately 645,000 words. In comparison, Stanley Karnow's great general history, "Vietnam: A History," is considered a large book, yet it measures 330,000 words. But don't be intimidated -- the size and detail of Gibbons' work only adds to its usefulness.

   
   
Part V:  1969-1974 To come