Notice for Scholars
This monograph was originally published as the September
1972 issue of Southeast Asian Perspectives, a publication of the American Friends of Vietnam, an organization which was formed in 1955 and prior to its demise two decades later included on its board such diverse figures as Senators John F. Kennedy and Mike Mansfield, Socialist Party Chairman Norman Thomas, and Journalist Robert Shaplen. It is reprinted here with the permission of the author.
Please note that in formatting it we have not been able to precisely duplicate the original pagination. Most pages are true to the original except for perhaps a few lines at the top or bottom of the page, but scholars who wish to cite the work may wish to check citations against an original copy in a major library. Alternatively, citations may be made to this web site.
Southeast Asian Perspective
In 1971, an extensive collection of classified documents relating to United States policy in Vietnam was turned over to the press by certain private individuals formerly in government service who were opposed to the American involvement in that embattled country. Government efforts to prevent publication of the documents were unsuccessful; and the Pentagon Papers, as they are now universally known, have become an important source of information on US
policy in Vietnam down to 1968.
Admittedly an incomplete record, the Pentagon Papers "were
written almost exclusively from the files in the Department of Defense, and did not involve interviews with the key decision makers or consideration of documents in the files of the White House, the State Department, or other government agencies."
Nevertheless, the Papers have been eagerly seized upon by opponents of the Vietnam involvement as providing voluminous and conclusive proof of the unwisdom —or worse—of official policy over the preceding two decades.
One wonders whether the critics have really bothered to read through the Pentagon Papers in reaching this conclusion. The author of the monograph published in this issue of Southeast Asian Perspectives, after a careful study of the documents, himself concludes that it is "difficult . . . to read the Pentagon Papers without being impressed with how frequently the government has been right about Vietnam, especially during the earlier days of our involvement . . . When one examines the record, . . . the government fares better than most of its critics."
In the monograph that follows, Robert F. Turner considers some of the major myths about the Vietnam War that have been spread so assiduously by the opponents of official policy, and which have so widely influenced public opinion on the issue. He then uses the resources of the Pentagon Papers to evaluate the historicity of these
myths. His conclusion is that the documents "thoroughly discredit" most of them. The reader is invited to formulate his own judgments. The author, Robert F. Turner, is a 28 year-old Research Associate at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford, California. Formerly a Captain in the US Army, he has been in South Vietnam three times, twice with the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong Affairs Division of JUSPAO (Joint US Public Affairs Office of the American Embassy in Saigon). He has published a number of articles in such publications as the Intercollegiate Review, New Guard, and the Yearbook on International Communist Affairs; and is at present working on a book about communism in Vietnam.
The author's initial encounter with the myths of the Vietnam War came in early 1965, when he participated in a Vietnam debate at Indiana University. During the years that followed, he took part in scores of similar debates and teach-ins, confronting the same basic myths each time.
For the most part, the proponents of this mythology are sincere in their acceptance of the myths. They have heard them often enough —...
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