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Rusk C, Interview with Dean Rusk, September 11, 1984

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:00 - Setting up the tape

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Partial Transcript: The only thing Tom and I didn't do was get together on our list of questions.

00:00:16 - "Disappointments" of the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: I just wanted to start off with a couple of general questions.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks on what he believes were the motivations for decisions prior to the Vietnam War, including the events of World War II, the inception of the South East Asia Treaty, and the disappointing Laos Accords of 1962.

Keywords: 1962 Laos Accords; Atlantic Ocean; Charles de Gualle; Communism; Communists; Cuban Missile Krisis; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Geneva Conference; Hanoi; Harry S. Truman; International Control Commission; John F. Kennedy; Kennedy Administration; Laos; Laos Accords; Laos Accords of 1962; Laos Conference; Nikita Khrushchev; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; North Vietnam; Pacific Ocean; Red scare; Rio Pact; SEATO; South East Asia Treaty; South East Asia Treaty Organization; South Vietnam; Truman Administration; United Nations; Vietnam; Vietnam War; World War II; World War III; anti-Communism; anti-Communist; disillusionment with war; war; wartime disillusionment

00:15:06 - "Paralysis" of American government

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Partial Transcript: Another general question, when Clark [McAdams] Clifford became Secretary for Defense--

Segment Synopsis: Rusk explains the confidence of the U.S. government in defeating the Communist powers in South East Asia during the Vietnam War, using such examples as Pearl Harbor and the Korean War to emphasize that even in "dismal-looking situations," the U.S. had succeeded in the past.

Keywords: Allied Forces; Battle of Inchon; Clark Clifford; Clark McAdams Clifford; Douglass MacArthur; Erwin Rommel; General MacArthur; Inchon landing; North Vietnam; Pearl Harbor; Pentagon Papers; Port of Pusan; Robert McNamara; South Vietnam; The Korean War; Vietnam demonstrations; World War I; World War II; anti-Vietnam protests; anti-war protests

00:20:31 - Pre-war intelligence information

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Partial Transcript: Yes, but there are other factors there other than North Vietnamese reading of our domestic situation.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks on the military intelligence gathered prior to the Vietnam War, and his "mistakes" in understanding how difficult the war would be.

Keywords: American home-front; Chief of War Plans; General Stilwell; George Marshall; Hanoi; Joseph Warren Stilwell; North Vietnamese; World War II; military intelligence; war; war effort; war-time education; war-time industry

00:26:35 - Gradualism during the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: Pop, Nixon moved away from that policy of gradualism, in a sense.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks on the motivation for adopting a method of military gradualism during the Vietnam War, and the fear of meeting a "nuclear threshold" too soon into the war.

Keywords: Hanoi; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon B. Johnson; Nixon; North Vietnam; North Vietnamese; gradual response; gradualism; military escalation; military gradualism; nuclear threshold; nuclear war; nuclear weapons

00:29:18 - The media and censorship of the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: Are you suggesting, in the light of everything that has happened, that there was potentially a way to win that war?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the ambiguity of stories told by reporters in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, and how the media may have affected the perspective of the American people watching and the subsequent lack of support on the homefront.

Keywords: Anzio Beachhead; Battle of the Bulge; Chesterfields; Guadalcanal; Larks; Peter Braestrup; Tet Offensive; Vietnam; Vietnam War; Vietnamese; World War II; censorship; censorship of war; cigarettes; war; war-time; war-time media; wartime censorship

00:32:54 - 1963 coup, assassinations of Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu

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Partial Transcript: Can we turn to a particular--

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks on the events leading up to the assassinations of Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu, including public cutbacks on financial and military aid given to the Diem administration by the Kennedy administration.

Keywords: Buddhist monks; Cabot Lodge; George Ball; Ngo Dinh Diem; Ngo Dinh Nhu; Robert McNamara; Roger Hilsman; South Vietnamese coup; South Vietnamese military; Tran le-Xuan Nhu; William Harriman; foreign aid

00:42:04 - "The Hilsman cable" and the coup d'etat

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Partial Transcript: It has been portrayed by some that that period in our Vietnam experience was a period of great debate within the Kennedy administration.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks on the conversations held between President Kennedy and his staff about "the Hilsman cable" (Cable 243), sparking an internal debate concerning the coup d'etat of Ngo Dinh Diem. He further explains the considerations of the United States during the then-theoretical coup.

Keywords: 1950s; 1960s; 1970s; American policy; Arthur Meier Schlesinger; Arthur Schlesinger; Cable 243; Cabot Lodge; Hilsman cable; John F. Kennedy; Kennedy Administration; National Security Council; Roger Hilsman; coups d'etat

00:50:11 - President Kennedy's reaction to the coup

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Partial Transcript: Was Kennedy--were you present at any meetings where Kennedy discussed the aftermath of the coup? Was he--how did he--did he emotionally react, or--

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses John F. Kennedy's possible conversations with Kenneth O'Donnell and Mike Mansfield concerning withdrawal of troops from Vietnam in 1965, and explains the motivations for his reduction of aid in Vietnam.

Keywords: Hyannisport; Jack Kennedy; John F. Kennedy; Kenneth O'Donnell; Mike Mansfield; Ngo Dinh Diem; Ngo Dinh Nhu; Robert McNamara

00:55:14 - Disagreements with President Kennedy and President Johnson

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Partial Transcript: On this matter of the Secretary of State not showing any--there not being any blue sky, as you put it, between the Secretary of State and the President, and advice tendered rather privately being the best kind of advice.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks about points of contention between President Kennedy's decisions and his own opinion of how things should have been done. These points include "bombing in the north" and the "unity of command" between U.S. commanders in North Vietnam and South Vietnam. He also talks about policies of Lyndon B. Johnson concerning the Vietnam War.

Keywords: Azerbaijan; B-52s; Berlin blockade; Berlin wall; CINCPAC; Commander-in-Chief Pacific; Haiphong; Hanoi; Ho Chi Minh Trail; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon B. Johnson; National Security Council; Robert McNamara; The Bay of Pigs; Vietnam War bombing; Vietnamese bombing; Warsaw Pact; William Childs Westmoreland; William Westmorelands; World War II; World War III; bombing halts; catastrophism; gradualism; mass destruction; mass retaliation; military force; nuclear war; nuclear warfare