At the height of the Vietnam war, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg was accused of leaking the “Pentagon Papers” to the press. The Pentagon Papers, swiftly published by The New York Times, consisted of copies of a classified report with the official title of United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense. They documented how the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations misled the American public and were not forthcoming with forecasts about the outcomes of the war in Vietnam.
Ellsberg shared the document with Times writer Neil Sheehan who began to publish excerpts in June, 1971. Nixon issued a court order demanding the Times cease publication of the documents. This was quickly followed by the Supreme Court case New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), which resulted in victory for the Times and for the First Amendment of the Constitution. Ellsberg, however was not off the hook. He surrended to authorities who charged him with conspiracy and theft under the Espionage Act of 1917.
Open Vault’s newly released episode of The Advocates features contemporary scholars and pundits debating the validity of these continuing charges against Daniel Ellsberg. They debate the merits of government secrecy vs. transparency and whether openness in government threatens national security… check it out!
To publicize the launch of the Vietnam Collection on Open Vault, WGBH producer Elizabeth Deane (American Experience, Latin Music USA, Vietnam: A Television History) and archivist Karen Colbron selected several sound excerpts from the collection for use in 60 second radio “interstitials”
Deane then worked with WGBH Radio producer Gary Mott to edit and broadcast the clips over the course of 4 weeks in April, culminating in the following clip airing on the collection launch day, April 30th, 2010, which was also the 35th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon:
Clark Clifford, Former Secretary of Defense for President Johnson, 1981
“It is my belief that our country made a mistake by going into Vietnam. I think we would have done better to stay out. We could have watched it a while and had we watched it longer, I think we would have seen it more clearly… We made an honest mistake. I feel no sense of shame about it. Nor, should our country feel any sense of shame. We felt we were doing what was necessary. We had nothing to gain by going in. We asked for no territory. We asked for no advantage. We went in because we thought we were doing it for the purposes of the nations involved and really for all humanity. It proved not to be a sound basis.”
Other clips included:
Journalist Bill Moyers, special assistant to President Johnson for legislative and political affairs and later Johnson’s press secretary (interstitial) (full interview)
This week marks the anniversary of the Berlin Blockade by the Soviet Union. Often cited as the first event of the Cold War, the 1948 Soviet blockade of Berlin cut off communication and ground supply lines to West Berlin, leaving 2.5 million people without access to food or fuel.
In response, the United States launched the Berlin Airlift; for 10 months the US Air Force and its allies in the Royal Air Force of Britain airlifted supplies into Berlin. Also known as “Operation Vittles,” the first C-47 involved in the effort took off for Berlin on June 26, 1948. That day, 80 tons of milk, flour and medical supplies were delivered.
Open Vault’s contemporary newsreel excerpt describes and celebrates the amazing logistics of loading aircraft for takeoff every three minutes, 24 hours a day, effectively creating an “air bridge” to Berlin. This footage was originally collected by a WGBH production team for the 1989 documentary series War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.
To respond with ground troops could have launched World War III. Instead, this massive humanitarian effort fostered great affection and publicity for the Allies, a victory, in what has been called “the first battle of the Cold War.”
The Boston Globe today is featuring stories about the release of previously classified FBI files on the late Edward Kennedy. The files, available on the FOIA web site, outline a unique relationship between J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and the Kennedy clan. Boston Globe reporter Farah Stockman writes:
As Hoover’s agents tracked death threats around the world, especially after the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, Hoover seemed to take the job of protecting the last brother personally.
But, at the same time, the FBI went to great lengths to keep tabs on Edward Kennedy, especially as his political star rose. The agency collected thousands of pages of personal and political information that had no apparent national security purpose.
Excerpts from the files shed light on several major incidents and trends in Ted Kennedy’s career. From associating with “radicals” on a fact finding trip to South America in 1961, to his accident at Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 that resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, to personal correspondence between Kennedy and Hoover regarding Hoover’s friendship with Joe Kennedy, Sr., the FBI documented Kennedy’s movements as both protection for, and surveillance of Kennedy himself.
Open Vault users may find one file on Kennedy’s civil rights involvement and his effort to bring orphaned Vietnamese children to the United States of particular interest. (See 94-HQ-55752 on the FOIA page)
Evidence of Kennedy’s anti-Vietnam sympathies can also be found on Open Vault, in an ABC News clip of his speech to the “Lawyers Against the War” group in 1971. In it he asks
“How many more American soldiers must die? How many more innocent Vietnamese civilians die?”
and argues that President Nixon is prolonging the war to benefit his upcoming election.
View the video, check out the newly release files, and let us know what you think!
The Boston TV News Digital Library is an IMLS funded project in partnership with Northeast Historic Film, Cambridge Community Television, and the Boston Public Library. The official title is “The Boston TV News Digital Library: 1960-2000″ and it will be the first online resource providing a city’s commercial, noncommercial, and community cable TV news heritage to educators and the public. The project will publish the news collections from these institutions. This includes news footage from WGBH, WCVB, WHDH, UPN 38, and CCTV. The project will also work with WGBH’s Teachers’ Domain to enable access to the materials in classrooms.
We are seeking financial support for this project. If you are interested in donating, we encourage you to support Open Vault. If you are interested in learning more about the Boston TV News Digital Library, please contact us.
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Today, on the 35th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, WGBH Media Library and Archives launches the Open Vault Vietnam Collection, an online video library drawn exclusively from the 1983 landmark WGBH series, VIETNAM: A TELEVISION HISTORY.
The Vietnam Collection contains hours of rare archival footage and in-depth interviews with key decision makers and veterans on both sides of the conflict, as well as enhanced tools to interact the media. This two-year project is a collaboration between WGBH Media Library and Archives, the University of Massachusetts/Boston (UMB), and the Columbia University Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL).
To coincide with the launch of this collection, WGBH’s Digital Mural is featuring images from the collection today!