On April 14, 1975, President Ford, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss aid to Cambodia and Vietnam.

President Ford had addressed a joint session of Congress on April 10, requesting $722 million in military aid and an additional $250 million for economic and humanitarian aid. At this meeting he restated that the money was needed to stabilize the military situation in order to provide opportunity for negotiations between North and South Vietnam and to permit evacuation.

At the request of the Senator John Sparkman, the Chairman of the Committee, Secretary Kissinger and Secretary Schlesinger provided updates on the political and military situation in Vietnam. The senators then discussed their views on providing support for an evacuation and sending additional military aid.

View the entire memorandum of conversation

Image: President Ford meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss aid to Cambodia and Vietnam in the Cabinet Room (White House Photograph A4041-24A).


May 23, 1967. LBJ addresses delegates to the International Conference on Water for Peace: 

"I come from land where water is treasure. For a good many years, I have done my share of agitating to increase the water resources of my native State. I have known the frustrations of this task. A member of the Texas Legislature once recited some lines on this subject:

    ‘Oh the glamour and the clamor / That attend affairs of   state / Seem to fascinate the people / And impress some folks as great.

    ‘But the truth about the matter, / In the scale of loss and   gain: / Not one inauguration’s worth / A good, slow two-inch rain!’

As man faces the next century, one question stands above all others: How well—and how long—can the earth sustain its ever-growing population?

As much as anything, water holds the key to that simple question: water to drink; water to grow the food we must eat; water to sustain industrial growth.

Today, man is losing his race with the growing need that he has for water.”

Read the rest of the speech here

Photos: Top: LBJ delivering speech, image #C5443. Below: LBJ’s beloved Pedernales River, near the Ranch, in 1967 (#C5785-12), and then during the drought of 2011. Map shows the distance between the LBJ Ranch and the location of the photo. 2011 photo by Texas Parks and Wildlife

Braving the Elements for a Phenomenal Discussion

Snow, ice, and artic cold could not deter the Office of the Historian and The Wilson Center’s half day symposium, “New Evidence on the Congo Crisis and Aftermath, 1960-1968,” this past Tuesday morning. The conference highlighted the recent release of Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) 1964-1968, Volume XXIII, Congo 1960-1968 and exemplified how historians re-assess events after new evidence enters the public record.

After a welcome and opening remarks by The Wilson Center’s Christian Ostermann, the Office of the Historian’s Stephen P. Randolph presented an overview of the volume’s content and production. Keynote speaker Roger Moran, a longtime Foreign Service Officer with considerable Africa experience who now serves as a UN official in Africa, discussed his perspective on the issues raised by the Congo volume. The “Challenges of Declassification and the Future of FRUS” roundtable recounted the compilation and declassification challenges that this particular volume of the FRUS series posed, notably why it took 19 years to publish. During the conference’s second roundtable, “New Evidence on the Congo Crisis,” panelists discussed how the Congo volume’s new documentation shed light onto the historical record. According to the Office of the Historian’s Myra Burton, “there is phenomenal material in this volume.”

Keynote Speaker Roger Moran (former State Department Official), Stephen P. Randolph (The Historian, Office of the Historian), and Christian Ostermann (Wilson Center)

Ted Keefer (former general editor for the Foreign Relations series), Stephen P. Randolph (The Historian, Office of the Historian), Richard Immerman (Temple University), and Christian Ostermann (Wilson Center)

Stephen R. Weissman (author of American Foreign Policy in the Congo, 1960-1964), Myra Burton (Office of the Historian), Amb. Edward Brynn (former U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ghana), Lise Namikas (Louisiana State University), David Robarge (Chief Historian, Central Intelligence Agency), Herbert F. Weiss (Emeritus Professor, City University of New York), and Robert McMahon (The Ohio State University), chair.


Shirley Temple Black  (April 23, 1928 - February 10, 2014)

We are sorry to mark the passing of Shirley Temple Black.  She started as a child actress at at 3 and in her later life left Hollywood for a life as a diplomat.  She was a representative to the 24th United Nations General Assembly; Ambassador to Ghana under President Ford, the first female Chief of Protocol, and then Ambassador to Czechoslovakia under George H. W. Bush.

Top: Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley Temple, 07/1938

Bottom left:: Photograph of Shirley Temple Black Shaking Hands with President Gerald Ford in the Cabinet Room after Being Sworn-in as Chief of Protocol, 07/20/1976

Bottom right: Shirley Temple Black, left, the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia; listens to a reporter’s question following an informal ceremony marking the presentation of 130,000 pounds of donated medical supplies to the Czech government. The supplies are flown to Prague from Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, aboard a U.S. Air Force cargo aircraft, 10/25/1990

(Ed. note: amended list of positions. 2/11/2014)

San Franciscans Give Their Heart to De Gaulle

French President Charles de Gaulle made his first State Visit as head of the Fifth Republic in April 1960. De Gaulle’s trip aimed to improve relations between the two countries after diverging policy objectives in the 1950s strained the relationship. Moreover, it was hoped that better acquainting U.S. policymakers with the French president could facilitate the bilateral relationship in the future. Lastly, the trip provided an opportunity for de Gaulle and President Dwight Eisenhower to prepare for the May 1960 joint summit meeting in Paris with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev.

De Gaulle at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

De Gaulle visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, National Archives and Records Administration

De Gaulle and his wife, Yvonne, arrived in Washington, D.C., on April 22 for four days of meetings, a speech in front of a joint session of Congress, and a state dinner. Eisenhower first met de Gaulle 18 years earlier during the Second World War and the two men forged a firm friendship over the years. Thus, a visit to Eisenhower’s farmhouse in Gettysburg, PA, was part of de Gaulle’s itinerary.

Eisenhower's Record of Schedule for April 24, 1960

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library

The trip was also notable as the first time that a French head of state paid a formal visit to San Francisco and New Orleans. On April 26, the de Gaulles went to New York, then flew to San Francisco on April 27, where an estimated 250,000 San Franciscans lined the streets of de Gaulle’s motorcade route from the San Francisco International Airport to City Hall.1 The San Francisco police estimated the welcome to be “the biggest ever given here to the head of a foreign state.”2 Among his engagements that day, de Gaulle met with California Governor Edmund G. Brown and toured the bay before spending April 28-29 in New Orleans. The de Gaulles were accompanied around the United States by Department of State Under Secretary Douglas Dillon, who served as U.S. Ambassador to France from 1953 through 1957.

De Gaulle in San Francisco

De Gaulle in the San Francisco City Hall Rotunda, National Archives and Records Administration

View the video retrospective of French presidential visits to the United States via France’s Institut National Audovisuel (INA).

  1. Lawrence E. Daviess, “De Gaulle Hailed by San Francisco,” New York Times, April 28, 1960, 2. 

  2. Ibid. 

The First French President to Formally Visit the United States

The first formal visit by the President of a French Republic to the United States was Vincent Auriol in Spring 1951. The trip sought to convince U.S. lawmakers and the public that France was steadily recovering from wartime destruction, thanks to Marshall Plan aid, and reinforce the Fourth Republic’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance.

President Auriol took daily English lessons to prepare for his visit because, according to the New York Times, he wanted to “speak at least a few words of English in each of the many talks he expects to make in the United States, notably in an address he will make before a joint session of Congress.”1 In March 1951, Auriol sailed for New York from Le Havre aboard the Ile de France with his wife, son, and Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, among others.2 The French presidential party landed in New York then took a train to Washington D.C.’s Union Station on March 28.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Auriol made another notable “first” when he became the first French head of state to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 2. He was also awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree of Chief-Commander, by President Harry Truman. Returning to New York on April 2, Auriol received an honorary doctorate from Columbia University. On Wednesday, April 4, the Auriols visited Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park, NY, and presented her with the Order of Commander of the Legion of Honor before sailing for France that evening.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

View the video retrospective of French presidential visits to the United States via France’s Institut National Audovisuel (INA).

  1. “Auriol Studying English,” New York Times, February 17, 1951, 3. 

  2. Harold Callender, “French President on Way to Visit U.S.,” New York Times, March 21, 1951, 21. 

Objective History or a Weapon of Mass Instruction?

In the 1940s and 1950s, policymakers and historians disagreed about the purpose of FRUS. These disagreements ultimately resulted in the creation of new procedures and institutions to assure the integrity of the series. The professional historians charged with producing the series since the late 1920s had always wanted to preserve its objectivity. In the midst of World War II, they pressed for publishing a comprehensive record of the 1919 peace negotiations. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other senior policymakers, on the other hand, wanted to promote propaganda and popular mobilization objectives. 

FDR Memo to Hull 9-7-43 (026 Foreign Relations PPC1919 8-2745)

In 1943, Roosevelt vetoed publication of Woodrow Wilson’s Council of Four negotiations at Versailles and instead endorsed Secretary Cordell Hull’s proposal to publish documents on U.S.-Japanese relations between 1931 and 1941 in the 1943 “Peace and War” volumes. These volumes did not conform to the editorial standards that Tyler Dennett introduced in 1925.

Hull memo to FDR (Miscellaneous Office Files, 1910-1944, Box 35, Folder 55D606 OSS-PB-5)

In 1952, FRUS historians added an accelerated–but objective–volume on U.S.-Soviet relations during the 1930s to a broader Cold War documentary arsenal. Although compilers worked to assure the integrity of FRUS, mid-century efforts to use history as a weapon left the series vulnerable to political interference.

In the mid-1950s, Congressional efforts to politicize FRUS threw the series into crisis. When Republicans took over the Senate in 1953, Majority Leader William Knowland requested that the Department produce special, accelerated volumes on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wartime summits and U.S. relations with China.

Knowland to Dulles, April 22, 1953; Courtesy of the Noble Papers

These volumes demanded greater interagency collaboration than ever before, and confronted Department historians with thorny clearance issues that delayed publication. Frustrated with these delays and suspicious of his superiors, the volume’s compiler leaked information to the press. Faced with mounting public pressure to release the Yalta record, an assistant secretary leaked the volume in draft form to the New York Times in March 1955. Fallout from the leak threatened interagency cooperation and alarmed the academic community. Congress held hearings and launched an investigation. In 1957, the Department created a Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) to safeguard the integrity of the FRUS series and advise on editorial matters, completing the shift from its nineteenth century mission of immediate accountability to its twentieth century role as an instrument of objective historical transparency. Although the Foreign Relations series faced many challenges in fulfilling this function during the ensuing decades, the creation of the HAC and the refinement of interagency research and clearance procedures created a robust foundation for FRUS’s stakeholders to negotiate its future.

“An Opinion-Moulder of No Little Importance”: FRUS and Cold War Revisionism

During the Vietnam War, supporters of the Foreign Relations series hoped to gain additional resources to accelerate FRUS production by convincing the leadership of the Department that the series could improve public support for U.S. foreign policy. Historians inside the Department of State and academic advisors who served on the Department’s Historical Advisory Committee agreed that earlier publication of the official record of U.S. foreign policy could clarify the origins of the Cold War, focusing blame for starting the superpowers’ confrontation upon Soviet provocations. Such clarification had civic as well as scholarly implications, because Department historians and HAC members argued that refuting revisionist interpretations of American responsibility for the Cold War could help break the antiwar fever sweeping college campuses across the country.

FRUS Editor (analogous to today’s General Editor) S. Everett Gleason led this effort. Gleason’s campaign reflected prior experience. In the early 1950s, before he served as the executive secretary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s National Security Council, Gleason collaborated with William Langer (a Harvard historian who consulted on intelligence analysis) on a two-book project financed by the Council on Foreign Relations that exploited privileged access to official U.S. Government documents to criticize the pre-World War II isolationist movement–and prevent its resurgence in the postwar era. For Gleason, The Challenge to Isolation and The Undeclared War showed that history could and should be used as a political tool to promote worthy national goals. In 1965, he applied this lesson to FRUS and urged the Advisory Committee to “refer to the present ferment in university communities as an added reason for publishing on time a candid record of American foreign relations.” In 1967, Gleason warned that “a new revisionism is growing up, but desk officers seldom appreciate the great value of a candid presentation of American foreign policy.”

HAC chair Robert Stewart obliged in March of 1968 and reported to the Department that, in light of “the problem of both domestic and world opinion, and particularly as it may be affected by the current ‘outbursts of revisionism’ by certain historians on the origins and nature of the cold war, the Advisory Committee believes that full public documentation on the years 1945-1947, and even later, would serve highly practical national purposes. The ready availability of the full record on the origins and early years of the cold war would provide a sound factual basis for judgment and decision by our policy makers, by Congress, by scholars and writers[,] and by public opinion at home and abroad.” In 1970, Elmer Plischke (Stewart’s successor) warned Secretary of State William Rogers that the growing lag in FRUS publication “cause[d] the Department and the nation grave harm” by inviting “irresponsible members of the public … to charge the government with concealment of facts,” enabled “alleged scholars to develop and teach fanciful theories about … the origins of the cold war,” and exacerbated “the undesirable gap between the Department and the scholarly community.”

The Historical Office and the Historical Advisory Committee abandoned their attempts to link their historiographical goal of buttressing Cold War orthodoxy with the Department’s efforts to shore up public support for the Vietnam War in 1971. One reason for their shift was pragmatic: the anti-revisionist arguments did not succeed in securing more resources for FRUS from the Department’s budget. Another was that Cold War revisionism grew stronger rather than weaker as the record of the early Cold War years opened. In June of 1971, the Department invited Walter LaFeber, a leading Cold War revisionist historian, to join the HAC and the minutes of subsequent meetings show nary a peep from anyone about exploiting FRUS as a historiographical cudgel.

In fact, the Cold Warriors who hoped to combine a boost in the FRUS budget with embarrassing the campus antiwar movement failed on both counts. From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, the historian Frank Costigliola assessed that “many of the documents published in the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes for the war and immediate postwar years undermined the Manichaeism of the orthodox interpretation.” Far from refuting Cold War revisionism, the FRUS series invited scholars from every interpretive persuasion to test their views against the historical record.

FRUS Moves from Contemporary Accounting to Historical Collection

Through the early twentieth century, the Foreign Relations series disseminated important foreign policy documents within a year of their creation. That suddenly changed after 1906, but not because of concerns about too-rapid sharing of national security information with the public. Rather, Congress failed to appropriate sufficient money to publish the volumes. In an attempt to corral what they perceived as increasingly out-of-control and wasteful federal publishing practices, the House and Senate imposed severe restrictions on the production of government documents.

FRUS was victim of the “squeeze” as the Department of State had to significantly curtail its printing expenditures. By 1914, the series had fallen five years behind its traditional release schedule. When World War I erupted in August 1914, the workload of the Department increased exponentially, and publication of foreign policy documents related to the war had to be postponed until the hostilities ended. By 1919, the series was eight years behind the traditional release schedule, and the timeliness of volumes steadily receded thereafter as Congress continued to impose severe restrictions on government printing. In the 1920s, expectations faded that the Department could ever return to its contemporaneous release practices, and FRUS became a different kind of publication that reflected a new era in U.S. relations with the world.


A significant miscommunication then occurred. Fourteen months passed until, on June 15, 1908, Elihu Root abruptly interrogated his staff: “Why is Foreign Relations for 1906 not out yet?” Root to Buck, June 15, 1908.


Another personnel change, again involving the Chief Clerk’s position, had resulted in confusion about Root’s intentions. The distinctions between postponement, suspension, and discontinuation apparently became blurred; the partially compiled volume had never been completed. Carr to Root, June 15, 1908. Secretary Root informed his subordinates, “I never for a moment entertained the idea of the discontinuing of the publication of the volumes of Foreign Relations. The volume for 1906 ought to have been published last fall [1907] and I never had any idea of postponing it any further than that. It should be published immediately and the volume for 1907 should be finished as soon as practicable.” Root to Carr, June 15, 1908.

The Foreign Relations Series as an Exercise of Democracy

Our research into the history of the FRUS series uncovered the fact that since the 1790s the U.S. Government has released foreign affairs documentation to the public. Nevertheless, the publication of documentation in Civil War-era FRUS volumes still elicited some resistance from our ministers abroad who found their correspondence suddenly open to the public. One such complaint came from Charles Francis Adams, stationed in London, in 1864. Secretary of State William Seward sent Adams a thoughtful and comprehensive response. For Seward, publishing documentation had a solid Constitutional basis that harkened back to precedents set as early as the 1790s: “The Constitution of the United States requires the President from time to time to give Congress information concerning the state of the Union.” Beyond this Constitutional obligation, Seward noted, “our foreign affairs have … been a subject of anxiety as deep as that which is felt in regard to military and naval events.” This widespread interest demanded a response. “The Government continually depends upon the support of Congress and the People, and that support can be expected only in the condition of keeping them thoroughly and truthfully informed of the manner in which the powers derived from them are executed.” Seward linked the publication directly to the exercise of democracy; because the authority of the government derived from the people, the people deserved to see the correspondence which revealed how policy was being carried out.

Secretary of State William H. Seward
(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Seward reiterated practices and principles enshrined during the early republic, telling Adams that “Congress and the country” had a “right” to see the documents that had caused Adams such consternation. Since “history would be incomplete without that account,” the President had a “duty to communicate it, unless special reason of a public nature existed for withholding it.” Seward did not believe that his correspondence with Adams qualified for this exception, and even if it did, sufficient time had elapsed to justify release: “the question which had called out this dispatch had been for a time put at rest.” Indeed, for Seward the greater error would have been not to release the documents. Failing to publish the correspondence “would have seemed to imply a confession that it was improper in itself, while to practice reserve on so great a question would be liable to be deemed an abuse of the confidence which Congress and the people had so freely reposed in the Government.” Congress and the American people needed to make an open and honest assessment of the government’s foreign policy, and the publication of these documents enabled the Constitutional framework of accountability to function.