Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FRUS Volume on Vietnam - Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Last week I posted about the publication of a new volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, this one concentrating on high policy formulation and decision-making during the period January 20 to October 7, 1972. The best of the volume's documentation came from the transcription of telephone conversations by President Nixon, Secretary of State Kissenger, and Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Admiral Moorer.

As the Office of the Historian's press released noted:

Sources for this volume include messages and memoranda that illuminate the decision-making process in a bureaucracy. They can be found in Nixon’s papers, in Kissinger’s papers, in military and diplomatic records in the National Archives, and in other repositories. Transcripts of Nixon’s taped conversations with senior policy advisers, as well as a collection of transcripts of Kissinger’s telephone conversations, provide an additional level of detail. A third collection, less well known than the other two but almost as significant, is that of Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and includes diary excerpts and telephone conversations. This volume, therefore, documents the implementation of U.S. policy toward Vietnam during the Easter Offensive more thoroughly than ever before.

More thorough documentation than ever before. That's great. Left unsaid was who did the painstaking transcription of those telephone conversations that are at the heart of this interesting volume.

I received the following comment today from someone who wants to recognize the contract historians who spent so much time wearing earphones in an HO cubicle.

Curious that the Department's Historian -- probably on the advice of volume compiler John Carland and supervisor Dr. David Geyer -- has omitted any mention of the fact that Anand Toprani played a key role in transcribing and editing tapes transcripts for this volume. Even more curious that current Acting General Editor Susan Weetman would allow this omission, given her constant interaction with Mr. Toprani as the tapes for this volume were finalized.

As a result of that comment, I discovered an article in State Magazine from back in May 2008, one that I had overlooked before, but which describes the transcription effort. See Department Historians Dig Into the Nixon Tapes.

It looks like we can thank both Anand Toprani and Richard Moss, graduate students who were - and I think no longer are? - contract historians with HO, and co-authors of the linked article.

You can find out more about the transcription effort, and even read the transcripts and listen to the audio of those conversations for yourself, here.

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