The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the official documentary historical record of major foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity of the United States Government. The series documents the formulation of policies, including the events which contributed to that process, and includes evidence of supporting and alternative views to the policy positions ultimately adopted.
The Historian of the Department of State is charged with the responsibility for the preparation of the Foreign Relations series. The staff of the Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, plans, researches, compiles, and edits the volumes in the series. This documentary editing proceeds in full accord with the generally accepted standards of historical scholarship. Official regulations codifying specific standards for the selection and editing of documents for the series were first promulgated by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg on March 26, 1925. These regulations, with minor modifications, guided the series through 1991.
A new statutory charter for the preparation of the series was established by Public Law 102–138, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993, which was signed by President George Bush on October 28, 1991. Section 198 of P.L. 102–138 added a new Title IV to the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 USC 4351, et seq.).
The statute requires that the Foreign Relations series be a thorough, accurate, and reliable record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity. The volumes of the series should include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation of major foreign policy decisions and actions of the United States Government, including facts that contributed to the formulation of policies and records that provided supporting and alternative views to the policy positions ultimately adopted.
The statute confirms the editing principles established by Secretary Kellogg: the Foreign Relations series is guided by the principles of historical objectivity and accuracy; records should not be altered or deletions made without indicating in the published text that a deletion has been made; the published record should omit no facts that were of major importance in reaching a decision; and nothing should be omitted for the purposes of concealing a defect in policy. The statute also requires that the Foreign Relations series be published not more than 30 years after the events recorded.[Page IV]
The editors of this volume, which was compiled in 1989–1990, are convinced that it meets all regulatory, statutory, and scholarly standards of selection and editing. Although this volume records policies and events of more than 30 years ago, the statute of October 28, 1991, allows the Department until 1996 to reach the 30-year line in the publication of the series.
Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series
This volume is part of a triennial subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series. This subseries documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the 3 years (1961–1963) of the administration of John F. Kennedy. In planning and preparing the 1961–1963 triennium, the editors chose to present the official record of U.S. foreign affairs toward Laos in a volume separate from Vietnam or other countries of Southeast Asia. This decision reflects the fact that for the first year and a half of the Kennedy administration, Laos was the most pressing crisis in Southeast Asia. After the conclusion of the Geneva Conference on Laos in July 1962, events in Vietnam came increasingly to dominate the administration’s policy toward Southeast Asia. The four volumes for Vietnam for 1961–1963 (Volumes I–IV) present documentation on a related although still basically distinct problem. Volume XXIII, Southeast Asia, contains closely related documentation. This is especially true for the compilation on Thailand, where the introduction of U.S. armed forces into Thailand in response to events in Laos is documented, and the regional compilation with its emphasis on the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization’s inability to respond effectively to the Laos crisis.
A microfiche supplement to be published subsequently will include additional noteworthy documentation on Laos and on Northeast Asia. The essential, comprehensive record is, however, presented here.
The statute of October 28, 1991, requires that the published record in the Foreign Relations series include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation on all the major foreign policy decisions and actions of the U.S. Government. It further requires that government agencies, departments, and other entities of the U.S. Government cooperate with the Department of State Historian by providing full and complete access to records pertinent to foreign policy decisions and actions and by providing copies of selected records. The editors believe that this volume meets the standards and mandates of this statute.
Sources for the Foreign Relations Series
In planning and preparing this volume documenting U.S. foreign policy toward Laos during the Kennedy administration, the editors undertook research in the records of various agencies and individuals. The records of the Department of State constitute one of the most important sources for the published record. Department of State historians have [Page V] enjoyed complete and unconditional access to all records and papers of the Department of State: the central files of the Department; the special decentralized (lot) files of the policymaking levels; the files of the Department of State’s Executive Secretariat, which comprehend the official papers created by or submitted to the Secretary of State; the files of all overseas Foreign Service posts and U.S. special missions; and the official correspondence with foreign governments and with other Federal agencies. Any failure to include a complete Department of State record in the Foreign Relations series cannot be attributed to constraints or limitations placed upon the Department historians in their access to Department records, information security regulations and practices notwithstanding.
The editors of this volume fully researched the papers of President Kennedy and other White House foreign policy records. These Presidential papers are the other central source for documentation on Laos. Presidential papers maintained and preserved at the Presidential libraries include some of the most significant foreign affairs-related documentation from other Federal agencies including the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All of this documentation has been made available for use in the Foreign Relations series thanks to the consent of these agencies and the cooperation and support of the National Archives and Records Administration. Particular thanks are due to officials at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library for their assistance in preparing this volume.
Other sources of documentation for this volume were also important, although not on the scale of the Department of State or the Kennedy Library records.
The editors had complete access to the papers of General Maxwell Taylor at the National Defense University, which proved to be an important source for documenting the formulation of policy toward Southeast Asia under President Kennedy. The Harriman Papers at the Library of Congress were also valuable given Averell Harriman’s special responsibilities for Laos. Department of Defense files, especially those of Secretary of Defense McNamara and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, provided crucial documentation on Laos. Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Laos were also used to supplement the record, as were cables of the Secretary of Defense as maintained by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Historical Office.
Laos was a crisis that the Eisenhower administration passed on to the Kennedy administration. To understand the problem of Laos upon the change of administrations in January 1961, the files of the Eisenhower Library for 1961 were searched and key documents have been printed. The Johnson Library provides additional documentation on [Page VI] Laos, especially after November 22, 1963. In addition, the files of Lyndon B. Johnson as Vice President yielded accounts of certain National Security Council meetings for which there are no other adequate records.
Completion of the declassification of this volume and the final steps of its preparation for publication coincided with the development since early 1991 by the Central Intelligence Agency, in cooperation with the Department of State, of access by Department historians to high-level intelligence documents from among those records still in the custody of that Agency. The Department of State historians have been provided selective access to particular special files of the Agency, most importantly the files of Director John McCone. The Department has used this access, as arranged by the CIA’s History Staff, in the compilation of this volume.
The List of Sources, pages XIII–XVI, identifies the particular files and collections used in the preparation of this volume.
Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, Volume XXIV
In selecting documents for inclusion in Volume XXIV, the editors focused on the actions of President Kennedy and his immediate advisers at the White House and elsewhere in the government in formulating policy with respect to Laos. This volume documents the many meetings of the President with his advisers from the White House, the Department of State, and other agencies, as well as the written advice to the President from these advisers. The editors have also included the major internal U.S. Government policy recommendations and decision papers relating to Laos.
The editors included in this volume documents indicating the advice and recommendations on foreign policy issues from top-level military commanders and advisers. The editors also focused on the high-level discussion of military contingency planning regarding Laos. The Kennedy administration produced an inordinate amount of contingency plans for Laos, most of which were never implemented. The emphasis in this volume, however, is on the high-level consideration of contingency planning, rather than on the mechanics and details of the actual plans. Normal command and control activities of U.S. forces were not researched.
In focusing on the major lines of the development of the crisis, the editors have also presented a record of the U.S. reaction and response to the major political events within Laos since they figured directly in the formulation of policy and the political negotiations at the Geneva Conference.
Intelligence information regarding Pathet Lao, North Vietnamese, Chinese, and Soviet political and strategic intentions with respect to [Page VII] Laos is reflected in documents selected for publication here. The editors did not, however, attempt to document the operational activities by intelligence authorities in connection with Laos.
The documents are presented chronologically according to Washington time or, in the case of conferences, in the order of individual meetings. Incoming telegrams from U.S. Missions are placed according to time of receipt in the Department of State or other receiving agency, rather than the time of transmission; memoranda of conversation are placed according to the time and date of the conversation, rather than the date the memorandum was drafted.
Editorial treatment of the documents published in the Foreign Relations series follows Office style guidelines, supplemented by guidance from the General Editor and the chief technical editor. The source text is reproduced as exactly as possible, including marginalia or other notations, which are described in the footnotes. Texts are transcribed and printed according to accepted conventions for the publication of historical documents in the limitations of modern typography. A heading has been supplied by the editors for each document included in the volume. Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are retained as found in the source text, except that obvious typographical errors are silently corrected. Other mistakes and omissions in the source text are corrected by bracketed insertions: a correction is set in italic type; an addition in roman type. Words or phrases underlined in the source text are printed in italics. Abbreviations and contractions are preserved as found in the source text, and a list of abbreviations is included in the front matter of each volume.
Bracketed insertions are also used to indicate omitted text that deals with an unrelated subject (in roman type) or that remains classified after declassification review (in italic type). The amount of material not declassified has been noted by indicating the number of lines or pages of source text that were omitted. Entire documents withheld for declassification purposes have been accounted for and are listed by headings, source notes, and number of pages not declassified in their chronological place. The amount of material omitted because it was unrelated to the subject of the volume, however, has not been delineated. All ellipses and brackets that appear in the source text are so identified by footnotes.
The unnumbered first footnote to each document indicates the document’s source, original classification, distribution, and drafting information. The source footnote also provides the background of important documents and policies and indicates if the President or his major policy advisers read the document. Every effort has been made to determine [Page VIII] if a document has been previously published, and this information has been included in the source footnote.
Editorial notes and additional annotation summarize pertinent material not printed in the volume, indicate the location of additional documentary sources, provide references to important related documents printed in other volumes, describe key events, and provide summaries of and citations to public statements that supplement and elucidate the printed documents. Information derived from memoirs and other first-hand accounts have been used when appropriate to supplement or explicate the official record.
The declassification review of this volume in 1992 and 1993 resulted in the decision to withhold less than three percent of the documents originally selected. The remaining documentation provides a full account of the major foreign policy issues confronting, and the policies undertaken by, the Kennedy administration toward Laos. The few excisions and denied documents related mostly to the details of covert and clandestine operations of the United States and neighboring countries in Laos.
The Division of Historical Documents Review of the Office of Freedom of Information, Privacy, and Classification Review, Bureau of Administration, Department of State, conducted the declassification review of the documents published in this volume. The review was conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Executive Order 12356 on National Security Information and applicable laws.
Under Executive Order 12356, information that concerns one or more of the following categories, and the disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security, requires classification:
- military plans, weapons, or operations;
- the vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, projects, or plans relating to the national security;
- foreign government information;
- intelligence activities (including special activities), or intelligence sources or methods;
- foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States;
- scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to national security;
- U.S. Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;
- cryptology; or
- a confidential source.
The principle guiding declassification review is to release all information, subject only to the current requirements of national security and [Page IX] law. Declassification decisions entailed concurrence of the appropriate geographic and functional bureaus in the Department of State, other concerned agencies of the U.S. Government, and the appropriate foreign governments regarding specific documents of those governments.
Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation
The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, established under Title IV of the Department of State’s Basic Authorities Act, amended on October 28, 1991, reviews records, advises, and makes recommendations concerning the Foreign Relations series. The Advisory Committee monitors the overall compilation and editorial process of the series and assists with any access and/or clearance problems that arise. Time constraints prevent the Advisory Committee from reviewing all volumes in the series.
This volume has not been reviewed by the Advisory Committee.
The editors wish to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the John F. Kennedy Library, in particular Suzanne Forbes, who assisted in the collection of documents for this volume.
Under the supervision of former Editor in Chief John P. Glennon and former Division Chief David Mabon, Edward C. Keefer collected, selected, and edited all the material presented in this volume. General Editor Glenn W. LaFantasie supervised the final steps in the editorial and publication process. Althea W. Robinson, Rita M. Baker, and Vicki E. Futscher did the copy and technical editing and Barbara-Ann Bacon of the Publishing Services Division (Natalie H. Lee, Chief) oversaw the production of the volume. Breffni Whelan prepared the index.
The HistorianBureau of Public Affairs